Bo Jackson was the first super human athlete we’ve seen. Long before he became an NFL and MLB star he was a childhood, school yard legend. The stories of Bo were all said to be true. Stories that were mythical, like jumping a Volkswagen, dunking a stick into a basketball hoop in 8th grade, or killing a pastor’s pig because he threw a rock too hard. All were said to be true stories.
However, Jackson eventually put his special athleticism to good use in football, baseball, and track. Bo caught the eye of baseball kingpin, George Steinbrenner while in high school. In 1982, The Boss, as they called Steinbrenner wanted Bo to be a starting Outfielder for the pinstripes and took him in the second round. Bo’s first love was always baseball. Bo’s high school coach let Steinbrenner send his top scout to Alabama to see Bo hit in the cage, on the first pitch he saw he hit a rocket back to the screen causing the cage to collapse on both of them. The scout had seen enough and the Yankees drafted him in the 2nd. He chose another path, not many players have the moxie to say ‘No’ to Steinbrenner, but Bo Knows what he’s doing. He chose to be a star in College first, then became one of the most ridiculous athletes of all-time.
Jackson opted to take the college route. Before committing to Auburn, Coach Bear Bryant showed up to Bo’s house twice to recruit him to the Crimson Tide. Bryant told Bo that he probably wouldn’t see game action until late in his sophomore season or junior year. That wasn’t good enough for Bo. He chose Auburn because they knew his worth and his value. Bo Jackson played a huge part in changing the outcome of the Iron Bowl as well as future recruiting. Alabama had a stranglehold on that rivalry game for 9 years prior to Bo beating Alabama in the final seconds in 1982. Being a state record holder in the high jump, Bo took the ball over the goal line for the win. Auburn was going to allow him to play baseball, football, and track. While at Auburn, he was the SEC player of the year in 1985, Heisman trophy winner in 1985 and a 2 time all-american in football. Jackson was set to be the highest paid NFL player in history had he stuck with one sport. While playing baseball at Auburn he played 3 seasons, one of which was cut short due to being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. His breakout season coming in 1985, Jackson hit .401 with 17 home runs and 43 RBI’s.
Jackson was set to be the number 1 overall pick in the upcoming football draft and teams were unsure of which sport Bo was going to choose. One team in particular invited Jackson for a physical during his senior year baseball season, Jackson asked the organization if he was breaking any NCAA rules. The Buccaneers were the team that ensured Bo he wasn’t breaking any rules. The NCAA was notified of this trip to Tampa and Bo was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Something he has never forgot. Tampa cost him a chance to be a first round player in the MLB draft; more importantly a chance to play the game he loved most, baseball. Bo was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To this day, Bo Jackson despises the Buccaneers organization because he feels they screwed him so he was going to screw them twice as hard.They drafted him number 1 overall in 1986, but chose to not ever sign with them. He chose to play baseball instead. Here you have the number 1 pick who is due to make a fortune playing football, decides to turn that down to play baseball and started in double A Memphis taking a bus to games. He fell to the 4th round to the Kansas City Royals because teams were hesitant, not knowing which sport Bo would choose. Huge gamble for the former Heisman trophy winner.
Well, that gamble paid off when he made his major league debut that same year. His first MLB game he faced off Hall of Famer Steve Carlton and he got an infield single on a ground ball hit to second base. Let me say that again, he beat out a ground ball to SECOND BASE. People weren’t used to seeing someone that big, 220lbs, run that fast. He also had one of the most explosive throwing arms of all-time. He was truly blessed being able to throw it on the fly with regularity about 400 feet. It was special to see. It’s crazy to think what Bo could have accomplished had he never played football. He considered football to be a ‘hobby’. Once baseball season ended, he played football as if it were fishing or hunting. Baseball was always his first true love but he had football in his soul. He was too good to not play football.
I’m thinking about adding another hobby to my offseason curriculum, and that’s all it would be. My number 1 priority is the Kansas City Royals. I have to do my job with the Kansas City Royals before I do anything else. Whatever comes after baseball is just a hobby for Bo Jackson, just like fishing and hunting.- Bo Jackson at a Press Conference
After a few seasons of baseball, Bo received a phone call asking if he’d play football again. His response was, “if its Tampa, you can forget about it.” His agent said it was the LA Raiders and he said “hell yeah.” Al Davis drafted Bo Jackson in the 7th round. Teams weren’t even considering Bo, nobody thought that he would play football. He came in and played with Future Hall of Famer, Marcus Allen putting together a pretty scary duo.
Jackson must have been pretty special if you come into LA and make Raiders fan kind of forget about hall of fame running back Marcus Allen, obviously an exaggeration but he had incredible moments. For a player who never liked to practice. A player who would sometimes get into arguments with coaches about running too much during practice. This just adds to the legacy of Bo Jackson, his talents were incredibly natural and god-given. Everything changed in 1 playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1990 after being tackled by LB Kevin Walker. It didn’t look like anything that serious at the time but because of the force of Bo Jackson’s running style it causes his hip to pop out. Complications caused this to end his career in football and career with the Royals. However, Bo Jackson looked former teammate George Brett in the eye and said, “I’ll be back.” The White Sox took a chance on him, only playing 23 games in 1991. He had hip replacement surgery that spring and rehabbed vigorously getting into the shape of his life after missing all of the 1992 season. He played in 85 games in 1993 and then announced his retirement from baseball.
My workout was running down fly balls, stealing a base, or running for my life on the football field.- Bo Jackson on not liking practice
Bo Jackson, is the only player in history that has made the pro bowl and an All-Star in the MLB. He was a very special player on the field. We’ve never seen anyone that big and run that fast. The bat speed and arm strength he showed matched that of countless hall of famers. Unfortunately, we as fans only get to see a few glimpses of what Bo Jackson would have been. His career was cut down incredibly short. He was a once in a lifetime type of athlete and his legend should never be forgotten for any sports fan. The Nike campaign ‘Bo Knows’ perfectly portrays it perfectly, Bo Jackson could have played any sport he wanted. Truly a gifted athlete.