With all due respect to Deion Sanders, Jim Thorpe, and even Kyler Murray, from 1987-1991, Bo was a steaming locomotive, excelling at two professional sports and setting a standard of athletic excellence that few have ever sniffed.
On April 29,1986, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected the multi-sport phenom with the first pick in the NFL Draft. Jackson was coming off a ridiculous Heisman campaign and considered one of the greatest football players in college football history.
He also had freakish abilities on the baseball field, accentuated by his speed, athleticism and uncanny power. Jackson refused to suit up for a downtrodden Tampa Bay franchise, opting to play baseball and eventually joining the Raiders in the NFL.
Bo was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1982 MLB draft. After clubbing twenty home runs in 25 baseball games as a high school senior, he chose to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship, where he wound up accumulating 4,303 yards on the ground while averaging close to seven yards per carry during his four college seasons.
As a sophomore in 1983, he ran all over Alabama for 256 yards on 20 rushes, averaging an insane 12.8 yards per carrying, and eventually won the Heisman Trophy as a senior.
He also played baseball for three years at Auburn, hitting 28 home runs with 70 RBI’s while batting .338 over 90 games. He went on to become a star with the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Raiders, and is still the only person to be selected as both an MLB All-Star and NFL Pro Bowler.
Nike’s legendary “Bo Knows” advertising campaign combined with his otherworldly talents to make him a cultural icon in the late ’80s and early ’90s that transcended the realm of sports.
His exploits are beyond legendary, and he’s still spoken of with awe and reverence by those who saw him in his prime.
There was also that Monday Night Football run when he trucked Seattle’s Brian Bosworth in 1988, effectively ending the former Oklahoma Sooners career.
Who can forget the magical 1989 All-Star Game home run, which he hit while Ronald Reagan was in the TV booth guest commentating?
He never played for a world champion, but the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Jackson was the epitome of a champion, overcoming a speech impediment, severe poverty, bullying, and ridicule as a kid to eventually become a larger-than-life role model.
“When people tell me I could be the best athlete there is, I just let it go in one ear and out the other,” Jackson said when his star was near its apex in 1990. “There is always somebody out there who is better than you are.”
We know about the terrible hip injury that ended Bo’s mythical career, but it’s not like he didn’t leave us a body of work that clearly shows his superiority as an athlete. Mastering two of the toughest disciplines in the world.
Also, don’t forget that after his hip-replacement surgery in the spring of 1992, Jackson would make an all-time comeback to baseball before retiring for good.
Dude was Godly.
Putting his body through the rigorous training and conditioning that it takes to play two professional sports in the same calendar year.
In baseball, he was a career .250 hitter with 141 home runs and 415 RBI in 2,393 at-bats in eight major-league seasons (1986-91, 1993-94) for three teams (Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels).
Bo mashed an elite 107 homers for the Royals from 1987 through ’90, while also busting straight ass on the gridiron.
As a part-time running back with the Los Angeles Raiders, Bo rushed for 2,782 yards on 515 carries and scored 18 touchdowns running and receiving in that 1987-90 period.
But hindsight, as they say, is 20-20, and during an interview with USA Today, Bo said he never would have played football had he known the full extent of the physical risks.
“If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football,” he said. “Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.”
“The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today,” Jackson said. “Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football
“I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.”
I can expect Bo to harbor some regrets, as a 57-year-old looking back at the potential of his brand and how much money the players today make. But regret often comes with age and wisdom. Back then, Bo was just being Bo. Breaking barriers and raising the bar and his influence has had a tremendous effect on the generation of world class athletes that have followed him.
Many have tried to duplicate the dual-sport success of Vincent Edward Jackson, one of 10 children born in the steel town of Bessemer, Ala., but there’s still just one Bo Jackson.