The Mystical Bo Jackson
If I gave these rushing stats as 515 attempts, 2,782 yards, and 16 touchdowns; they would not blow you away I am sure. Essentially 4 years in the league 1987-1990, career ending hip injury in a playoff game. Oh yeah, he also played professional baseball. Vincent Edward Jackson, simply known as “Bo”. Perhaps the greatest athlete of my generation and a player, one that younger fans do not know enough about. If you did not see what this man could do on any athletic field, you would never believe it.
I was speaking with someone 22 years younger than me and his question was “if Bo was so good, how come nobody knows WHO he is?” My reply? Bo was a was a candle in the wind (he did not get that reference either), a mystical figure who transcended all that is holy in sports. I got laughed at. Bo was so good, it was like if you were playing Call of Duty and always knew where the enemy was going to shoot, kill and they can not shoot you. That was Bo, opponents knew what he was and what he was going to do, yet they could not stop him. He was too strong and too fast. Legs that were so powerful he dragged people with him, legs that were too powerful and ultimately caused his injury.
Born November 30, 1962 in Bessemer, Alabama the eighth out of ten children, Vincent Edward Jackson could not stay out of trouble growing up. His athletic ability was known early, however, he rushed for 1,175 yards as a senior in high school. He hit 20 home runs in 25 games for the baseball team that same senior year. A track star to boot, he won two state championships in the decathlon WITHOUT even competing in the final event (1500 meter) because he was so far ahead. To top off his senior year, he set state records in the high jump and the triple jump. The legend grows…
Bo promised his mom he would attend college, so when the New York Yankees drafted him in the second round of the MLB draft, he declined and attended Auburn University on a full football scholarship. Bo dominated right form the start, ending his career with 4,303 yards, setting an SEC record with 6.6 yards per carry average.
In 1985 as a senior Bo took home the Heisman Trophy as he rushed for 1,786 yards at an average of 6.4 yards. Although on a football scholarship Bo showed why the Yankees drafted him. He played 3 years (injured his shoulder his sophomore year), hit .338 with 28 home runs and 19 stolen bases. His mythical status grew when he convinced his head coach Pat Dye to jump over both the offensive line and defensive line on 4th down in the 1982 “Iron Bowl” against rival Alabama. Bo did it of course and the TD gave Auburn the 23-22 victory.
Bo was the number one pick in the 1986 NFL Draft taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did not want to play in Tampa Bay, so he refused to report. He used what would have been an NFL rookie season and signed a contract with the Kansas City Royals to play baseball. His rights with the Buccaneers expired, the 1987 NFL Draft came, and Al Davis and his Raiders decided Bo was too much to pass up and selected him in the seventh round. This started what would be an amazing, albeit short NFL career.
Bo was great as a baseball player, but he was a man amongst boys while playing football. He loved baseball and was committed to playing professionally. That love limited him to playing only 7 games his rookie year in the NFL. He rushed for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns, with an amazing 6.8 yard per carry average. Bo had made his impact felt on the entire league. In his fifth career game the Raiders played the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Bo racked up 221 yards and 2 touchdowns with athletic ability like no one had seen before.
A 227-pound man should not be able to run as fast as Bo Jackson did when he took a ball off left tackle and ended up in the tunnel because his acceleration was too great to stop. Seattle safety Kenny Easley looks like he will make the play and Bo outruns the angle with ridiculous ease. He was not only speed however as he showed on his second touchdown of the night. All-American linebacker Brian “Boz” Bosworth (one of the greatest linebackers to play in college) met Bo at the 4-yard line. Bo lowered his shoulder and carried him into the endzone like Boz did not know how to tackle. A notorious trash talker, it is a play that will live in the infamy of Boz’s career, after Bo ran him over, he said to him “next time make sure you have bus fare”. No one does that to Boz, Bo did it with no regard.
Bo Jackson would continue his football “hobby” for 3 more years, playing them all with the Raiders. In a January 1991 playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals Bo would play his last NFL game. Bo broke off a 34 yard run and was brought down by a seemingly ordinary tackle. Bo said he heard a pop and saw that his hip was dislocated, Bo popped it back himself when saw what happened.
He had damaged the blood vessels that carry blood to his hip and doctors said he fractured the hip bone. The injury turned out to be much more serious as Bo was not only bleeding internally from the broken blood vessels, but there was no more cartilage surrounding the hip bone. His football career was over as almost as quickly as it began. He was cut buy the Raiders as well as the Royals. Bo had a hip replacement in 1992 and was MLB Comeback Player of the Year in 1993. Doctors were not sure he would even walk again, he played a pro sport again.
Bo was a highlight machine that, if you didn’t get to see him play, is immortalized on YouTube. Bo made other pro athletes look ordinary. Ask Ray Knight, who was doubled up by Bo at first base with a cannon of throw that almost decapitated the shortstop and left George Brett (1st base) with an aching hand. Or Harold Reynolds who tried to score from 1st base (after stealing second to start), Bo gunned him down from 316 feet like it was a flick of the wrist.
Watch for his Spiderman like climb of the center field wall after chasing down a gap shot. His 1989 All-Star game 450ft dead center home run with former President Ronald Reagan in the booth. Bo did it all. His Nike “Bo Knows” campaign was not farfetched; he could absolutely do everything he was portrayed doing in those commercials. He was a video game legend. Ask anyone that has played the NES classic “Tecmo Bowl”. Bo was unstoppable, it wasn’t fair playing with him, and you couldn’t him stop if you played against him. A far too true representation of an athlete touched by the Gods.
Bo Jackson will never make the Hall of Fame in either pro sport he played, but if not for the injury he had a shot at them both. If he committed to one there is no doubt in my mind he would have been enshrined. I know the younger generation does not know much about him and they cannot understand what an incredible athlete this man was but trust me when I say, there isn’t a player in this generation that would touch what Bo could do. Try breaking a baseball bat over your knee (or your head). Hurt didn’t it? Bo made it look he was breaking a toothpick…
PS- Bo (unofficially) ran the 40 yard dash in 4.12