"I've Thought About Hanging Up the Boots..." | Jett Reynolds 4

Jett Reynolds tells us about the struggles of his amateur to pro career transition, injuries, going back to amateur races, and more.

Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Jett Reynolds' pro career has not gone to plan and many have wondered what his future looks like. Jett was one of the most successful amateur riders in history winning nine Loretta Lynn Amateur National championships on mini-bikes. His transition to big bikes was not as triumphant. As he moved into his pro career, injuries have plagued him the last two seasons. In 2023 he finally is getting some results in the pro motocross championship and learning at each round. I called Jett up to ask him if he was surprised by how the pro career has gone, if he had gotten burned out, and more.

For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.

Jamie Guida - Vital MX: What's going on, Jett?

Jett Reynolds: Not much, man. My Monday afternoon work is done, and I'm just relaxing.

Vital MX: How was training today? We have a holiday tomorrow. Do you get a break?

Jett: Yeah, it's a tough deal. I would love to be home with the family, set fireworks off, and hang out with my friends. It's race season and a little way from home. 

Vital MX: Let's talk about nationals. You've had positives and some negatives. What was the game plan going into this season?

Jett: My game plan was to just race. A lot was thrown at me, and it took a lot to get to this point to finally race. Everything was held off for so damn long. The expectations were just to get out there, see what I could do, and progress. It's hard to have expectations come into it. I didn't want to throw a whole lot on myself because a lot of shit has gone on.

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Vital MX: Yeah, it's been a tough start to your career. What do you feel you've learned the most in these first few nationals?

Jett: I learned there are a lot of fast guys. There's a lot of talent out here, and these guys have some speed. It's more than one, two, or three guys, like an amateur race. The speed is pretty unreal—also, the qualifying deal. I'm not the best at it. It takes me longer to get going throughout the day. Especially with everything happening, I'm trying to take a different approach to this deal this year. I take things slow and grow into it.

Vital MX: By different approach, do you mean throughout the day on race day, the whole program, or on the track? What is the different approach specifically?

Jett: I'm not hanging it out. I'm trying to ease myself into this process. It's a bit tough because I want to hang off the back fender while holding it wide open. There are a lot of steps that I need to take before I can switch my brain to "Let's go send it."

Vital MX: At Thunder Valley, you started it but didn't get to finish because of the first turn pileup. You had your left shoulder in a sling. What happened to your shoulder?

Jett: The Thunder Valley incident left me with some numbness and some tingles running down my shoulder as if I had dislocated it. I got checked out and had a torn ligament on the back side of my shoulder. Nothing too serious. The doctors thought it was a weird injury. They said I sprained my shoulder. They were unsure if it dislocated or not.

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Vital MX: As in it may have dislocated and then gone back in?

Jett: Yeah, it's possible. That could have happened from the imaging that they saw, but they were still unsure. I took a week off the bike and chilled for a bit. 

Vital MX: Did it bother you much at Redbud this weekend? I'm sure it was a little sore, and it got worse as the day went on. 

Jett: The shoulder didn't affect me at all. I took the week off. Then there was another week off. The first week of riding was painful, but the whole week leading up to Red Bud, I had no problems with my shoulder.

Vital MX: You mentioned how there are so many more fast guys at the pro level than at the amateur level. What else do you feel is different? 

Jett: The longest amateur national is 20 minutes plus two laps or something. I feel these amateur nationals should be 30 plus twos. It is very different when there are 30 plus twos, and you have 15 pretty gnarly dudes. I think that's a big difference between amateur racing and pro motocross and the whole scheduling and all that.

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Vital MX: That's a very difficult adjustment, not only mentally but physically with all your body has to go through, plus the traveling and all those things added in. It must feel massive.

Jett: Absolutely. Props to those guys that can stay healthy year after year and can compete at all these events. There aren't a whole lot of dudes, but the dudes that do are animals. It's also new to me to race damn near every weekend, especially after all that time off. I didn't race for two years, and then I did something like eight amateur races leading into it, week after week after week. It led straight into the pro motocross series, so I never had a big break. I have been racing nonstop since March. Then you fly out on a Thursday, check things out on Friday, and race Saturday. If you're lucky, you can get a flight home on Saturday night, which is ideal. I'd rather do that than wake up on Sunday and travel.

Vital MX: You were one of the winningest amateur national champions at Loretta's. You have nine national championships. I know AC has 11. I have read where you said that those almost don't matter now at the pro level. You have to prove yourself at the pro level. 

Jett: Yeah, at the time, it's cool. It's great. It gets you to where you need to be. When you're an amateur, go win everything you can. Get what you can, get yourself a ride, and make money. As a pro looking back at the amateur stuff, it doesn't mean a whole lot. At least, it doesn't matter to me. I'm onto bigger things and set my goals to something I want to achieve. I don't want to look back at the amateur career and go, "Wow," you know?

Vital MX: You made your pro debut last year at Minneapolis Supercross. On press day, you got hurt. Looking back on it, do you feel you were prepared and ready, or was it just a fluke thing?

Jett: That was supposed to be my pro debut. I didn't make it to Saturday. Before that, I did a little over a month and a half, maybe two months of Supercross. I broke my pelvis in the biggest set of whoops ever at the practice track. Then I did everything I could to recover as fast as I could. I got over a broken pelvis within five or six weeks. I then had three and a half weeks of Supercross before I went to Minneapolis. Was I quite ready to go out and get a top-five or anything like that? Probably not, but my goal was to try and get to that first race, take it slow, and see what I could do. That didn't end up happening. I made it three laps on press day. I did something really stupid that no one else did. I don't know why I attempted it, but it put a hex on my career. I remember everything so clearly. As I was in the air, I was holding on to my bike and worried about where my legs would land because I just got off the broken pelvis. I was looking for my feet placement and still holding onto the bike. I was so worried about where my feet were going to land. As soon as I hit the ground, I think I was still holding onto the bike, and maybe that's what broke my hand. Or maybe the abrupt hit to that five-footer is what did it. I remember getting up, and my hand was completely numb, and I went to go pick up my bike, and I'm like, "Nope, I can't." At that moment, I knew everything was over. Out of all the things I've been through, that injury was the absolute worst. Maybe not pain-wise, but healing and trying to fix everything in there.

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Vital MX: With all the time off and the multiple injuries and struggles, has there ever been a moment where you felt burnt out and thought, "Maybe it's time to step away?" 

Jett: I don't think I ever got a chance to get burnt out because of injuries. I mean, I could say I've thought about hanging up the boots a couple of times because I'm over getting hurt and surgeries, and I'm over the setbacks. I'm over sitting on the couch and feeling bad for everyone who has supported me and paved the way. Those bringing me up as the next 'golden boy' to go out and win everything. It sucked getting hurt over and over. It got to a point where it's like, "All right, what's going to happen next," you know? You can only get so lucky so many times and walk away. 

Vital MX: That stuff would mess with your head. Even the pressure of being, as you said, the golden boy. It's a lot of pressure to put on a 15 or 16 year old kid. Maybe the team doesn't expect you to go out when you go pro and continue that success, but a lot of the fans do. Having Broc Tickle, who I believe has been very supportive, how much has that helped you? 

Jett: Broc's definitely helped me a lot. He's a super positive person, and at those times, it's good to have someone around you like that to keep your head up. Also, family and friends are around through the downtime. There was definitely a dark cloud for quite a while. I had hopes, and they got shut down a few times with the injuries and the surgeries not working out. 

Vital MX: I expected we'd see you in Supercross, and it didn't work out that way. Was that because you were still recovering, or did you and the team also decide, "Let's get some more time on the bike and then make a run outdoors?"

Jett: I didn't ride much at all last year. I got hurt in February. I got back on the bike in June and rode for two months. At first, I had no range of motion. I still really don't have a range of motion in my hand, but the amount of pain and suffering day in and day out and training was a lot. It got to the point after two weeks, and I was thinking, "All right, something isn't right. It isn't getting better, this ain't it." I got an MRI, and it checked out that nothing was wrong. I'm like, "All right, I just have to man up and get through this." It just kept continuing, continuing, continuing. Then I was like, "I'm over it. If this is how it's going to be, I just want to hang it up." I went and got an x-ray, and sure enough, the screws came loose and backed out and were puncturing other bones. They put holes in them, and I rode with a completely broken navicular. It was crazy because I didn't feel it was that bad. I knew the pain on the bike was terrible, but I never thought that everything was re-broken or had come apart. I just thought something was going on with some ligaments or something was torn. I got another surgery and didn't get back on the bike till December. I got cleared to mess around on turn tracks and stuff. No jumps, really. Mitch said, "Go ride your 450 and get back into the flow of things." It was still tough during my first month of play riding. I was having a blast being back on the motorcycle, but there's still a little pain. Then I just got better. So, I did two months on a personal bike, and then in the middle of February, I got back on the Pro Circuit 250 outdoors. The goal was to do some of these amateur races leading up to the pro motocross series. Supercross was out of the picture.

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Vital MX: With the injuries at Pro Circuit, they brought in a couple of fill-in riders like Chris Blose and Carson Mumford. Was there ever a thought or a discussion of, "Hey, Jett, are you ready? Do you think you could do this," or did they not even touch on it?

Jett: No, we didn't touch on it. We set our plans back in February of what we would do. That was to forget Supercross, and we have a long process to get back to where we need to be.

Vital MX: You spoke of doing some of the amateur nationals. I saw you at the Spring National at Freestone. Was there any kind of ego about that? Like, "Man, I don't want to return to amateurs." Or did you see it as a useful tool? "Let's get back to some racing and get some gate drops. This is what I need."

Jett: No, dude, that was awesome. I'm honestly so happy I was able to go do that. I had so much fun. I got my ass kicked by some of these kids, but I kind of expected it. It didn't get me down at all. Hopefully, I raised some kids' heads up, and they said, "Hey, I beat this guy."

Vital MX: I like that it didn't get you down because you know how this industry is. I was hearing rumors that day that, "Mitch told Jett to go race this, and if he doesn't win, he's off the team." That sounded ridiculous. Was there any pressure or just, "Let's get some riding in?"

Jett: No. It was seriously, "Go have some fun. You haven't done this in so long." It's been cool, like even this outdoor season. Of course, I want to do good. I want to do better than what I'm doing, but I haven't had a whole lot of heat from the team, which has been nice for me. It allows me to focus on my goals instead of worrying about stuff.

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Vital MX: That's important. Again, it is your rookie year. You don't need the pressure. You just need to figure the system out.

Jett: Yeah, exactly. Just slow and steady and getting better. I need to get better.

Vital MX: Have you set goals for the rest of the season?

Jett: I'm ready for some top tens, consistently week in and week out. I'm right on the cusp of it. I've had some unfortunate luck with these gnarly first-turn crashes. I don't like to do those. I'm over those, and they hurt a lot.


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