“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there. ” –Bo Jackson There are stars, then superstars, and then there was Bo Jackson. The man who knew how to do it all, a man with such talent it was so unreal you had to see it to believe it. As a child he was Paul Bunyan like, legendary around all of Alabama. Stories about this man were so unbelievable that everyone told them, true or not. Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson was by far the greatest athlete in the 20th century and did things that were so inhumanly possible and in the blink of an eye was gone.
Bo grew up in a small town just outside of Birmingham, Alabama in a town called Bessemer. The area was filled with very low income families, where he lived in a house with 10 siblings in a three bedroom house. He grew up with no dad in the house and took very good care of his mother. Making her a promise that he will go to college since no one else in his family did. While going to the local high school in Bessemer, McAdory, he was already known for his uncommon size and muscle tone. A three sport athlete in football, baseball and track; setting state records for the triple jump and then set another record for the high jump at 6’8.
Although track was his first love, his amazing hand-eye coronation got him an opportunity to sign a contract to play with the New York Yankees straight out of high school. The Yankees offered him a quarter of a million dollar signing bonus and will continue to go up till he signed. Let me tell you how hard it is to get signed out of high school to play baseball but to have the attention of the New York Yankees, that’s incredible. With all this hype and the amazing opportunity he declined it keeping his promise to his mother. Bo’s mother is quoted saying “What do I need George Steinbrenner’s money for?
” The Jackson’s took pride in themselves even though they were dirt poor. The next step for Bo was college. He wanted to stay in the state of Alabama to stay close to his mother and the two schools that were looking into him were power houses Alabama and Auburn. At the time Alabama was by far the best team in the country for football. When a scout from Alabama came to Jackson’s small home in Bessemer and told him Auburn will never beat us but the only problem is that you won’t have the chance to play until the end of your sophomore year or start of your junior year. Now for Bo, being that
athlete he was, there was no way he was going to sit on the bench. So the high school phenomenon went on to play football and baseball at Auburn University. Two sport Division 1 athlete yet another accomplishment and they have just begun. While at Auburn he became an instant hero on the football field. What he did on a daily basis was unreal, nobody could catch him, nobody could tackle him and nobody sure as hell could stop him. On the baseball field he would just absolutely crush the ball 400+ feet, opposing teams would ask to come an hour early just to get autographs from Bo.
To have the other team come in and ask for your autograph is one pretty awkward and two awesome! He was a national superstar already. Bo was highly spoken from both the football and baseball coaches but the best part about him was that he didn’t need coaching; Bo was so natural at everything that he would pick up new tools in a matter of days. One of Bo’s most memorable moments at Auburn was the Iron Bowl in 1982, which is the game between Alabama and Auburn. Let me remind you the Alabama coach told Bo when he was recruiting him that Auburn would never beat Alabama; here was Bo’s chance to show them wrong.
It was late in the fourth quarter and Auburn was down five, they were at the half yard line about to score. The Auburn fans are roaring while Alabama fans are holding on for dear life. Bo being the athlete he is tells his coach let me jump over the top into the end zone and he did. This gave Auburn the lead and the win. After the game this quote was taken by Jimmy Brian from the Birmingham News he said “Games like these only come along once in a long while. A team and its coach prove themselves great on the inside, where the heart is, where the public watches, understands and is proud.
” It is said that, that one single play was the most important play in Auburn football history. In 1985 Vincent Edward Jackson received the most prestigious award in football, the Heisman. This set up the stage for what he had to do at the professional level because he had opportunities to play both baseball and football. Bo was looking at some pro football teams while still playing baseball at Auburn during his senior year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers invited him on a recruiting visit.
Little did Bo know that it was illegal for him to make that visit during baseball season and was told he was ineligible to play baseball for the second half of his senior year. Jackson was devastated and literally sat down on the field and cried like a baby. He was having an astounding first half of the season tearing the cover off the ball and was hotter than a bottle rocket in July. Bo Jackson told Tampa Bay general manager “You draft me if you want, but you’re gonna waste a draft pick, I promise you that. ” Little did Tampa Bay know but Bo was dead serious and declined the draft and followed through with what he said.
Bo was listed in the MLB draft and was taking in the fourth round by the Kansas City Royals and he accepted the offer. Everyone in the world was shocked, Bo Jackson the Heisman winner choose baseball over football?! Bo was going to be the highest paid football player if he would have signed and probably would have started for the Bucs. Instead signed with the Royals playing baseball to start in AA Memphis, Bo had to work his way up and he proved everyone wrong and in the same year was playing with the big boys. On September 2, 1986 Bo Jackson made his Major League debut with the Kansas City Royals.
In his first plate appearance he chops a slow ground ball over to second and beats it out. In amazement everyone knew this guy was the real deal. Bo ran a 4. 12sec 40yd dash in the combine and had power like Paul Bunyan. His first major league homerun was the longest homerun in the stadiums history. It was the closest ball to ever leaving the stadium and was measured close to about 500 feet. Bo right away was making an impact on the game of baseball. Little after that Bo’s manager asked him if he still wanted to play football with the Los Angeles Raiders and Bo accepted the offer.
Now Bo’s had the coolest contract and it was that he could play baseball till it ended and then go play football. This honestly is every multi sport athlete’s dream to play two sports you love at the professional level. Bo had the privilege of doing so and was very successful in both sports. All the football fans that longed to see him run the football got what they wished and the baseball fans got to catch the high soaring homeruns from Jackson. Jackson instantly was the best running back in the game, his size and speed made him unstoppable and not even Brian Bosworth the bone crushing tackler from Seattle could stop him.
One of Bo’s most memorable moments in the NFL was when he took Brain Bosworth out at the goal line in a Monday Night football game. This is memorable because Brian Bosworth promoted himself saying he would contain Jackson and all this hype but when that moment came Jackson dragged Bosworth into the end zone. In 1989 Bo Jackson was named to the AL All-Star team. Manager Tony LaRussa had the first time all-star leading off against the best of the best in the NL. Bo did the unthinkable and led off the game with a deep homerun to center field.
During a commercial break Nike released their new campaign called “Bo Knows” the new cross fit training shoes and Bo was the new face of it. The whole point of the shoe was for athletes who trained in multiple sports, which was Bo’s forte. After the “Bo Knows” commercial Nike sales went up 1000% and took the top spot in sales over Reebok. When Nike puts an athlete out there to run with a campaign usually the athlete is the best out there. For example, Michael Jordon took on a Nike campaign and ended up becoming the best basketball player to ever live.
Was Nike basically saying that Bo Jackson is going to be the next best thing? With Bo Jackson’s strength, size and speed if his legacy would have came a decade later he would have been accused numerous times for steroids. Everyone could tell you that Bo was all natural, he didn’t even lift weights, that is the way God had blessed his body. In the 90’s we have the athletes that played during the steroid era, with such athletes like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Rodger Clemens. Nobody would have appreciated the skill and just pure amazement of Bo because they all would have been skeptical that he was on steroids.
Bo says “God blessed me with the speed that I can run like a spooked dear, He blessed me with great hand-eye coronation, He blessed me with the arm of a high powered rifle and with all those tangibles you gotta be successful in something that you do. My talents fell on the football and baseball field. ” People are blessed with many talents and it’s up to that person to make the most of it and Bo did just that. He knew that God had blessed him with these amazing talents and he knew he had to use them somehow and not let them go to waste. On January 13, 1991 the Los Angeles Raiders were taking on the Cincinnati Bangles in a playoff game.
Bo was a bit hurt but knowing him nothing was going to stop him from going out there and playing. Bo got the hand off and ran around the corner with a huge gain, instead of stopping by going out of bounds Bo pushed for more and was tackled from behind. This tackle was nothing special but this one tackle changed Bo Jackson’s life forever. He was running so hard and fast that when defender Steve Walker clamped down on Bo’s right leg and since he was running so hard and fast the force put on his hip was tremendous. Bo had dislocated his hip and popped it back in, in a matter of seconds.
The super hero everyone saw him as was no longer invincible. Bo went months without return and released to the public that he had a hip pointer. Fact of the matter was that the blood artery around his femur ripped and that blood vessel kept the cartilage in his hip alive and without it he was bleeding on the inside. Nobody figured it out until he went back to baseball and declared that he would need a hip replacement. This would mark the end of Bo Jackson’s football career and on March 18, 1991 the Kansas City Royals released Bo. Walking out of the stadium Bo told George Brett “I will be back! ”
After Bo’s surgery he went through extensive rehab the doctors told him that he should not play professional sports but on April 9, 1993 Bo Jackson made a miraculous comeback with the Chicago White Sox. Doing what “Bo Knows” he hit a homerun to right field on his first at-bat back in pro baseball. A few years before his comeback Bo’s mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and he made another promise to her, He said “If I come back mom my first hit will be for you. ” He did that in grand fashion with a massive homer. It was such a redemption moment for him and emotional one since it was for his mother.
Bo got the ball back a week later and had it encased and mounted on to her dresser where it still is today. Even though Bo was back he was never the same as he once was, the fake hip limited him but every now and then the fans were able to see glimpse of his greatness. The speed, power, power arm but he was never able to do it consistently. On April 3, 1995 Bo Jackson officially retires from the game of baseball and now lives in a suburb of Chicago. The man in his short time left a great legacy on sports, he was the first to play two professional sports, also be selected to an All-Star team and Pro Bowl.
He defined all logic in the sports world with the way he played them. He played with ease, he made the most difficult plays look easy, and he did the unthinkable on a daily basis. Bo Jackson in his short professional career will forever leave his mark as the best athlete in all of sports and it couldn’t have had happened to a better person. “Don’t sell yourself short because without that you can’t go far in life because after sports the only thing you know is sports and you can’t do anything else with that. ” –Bo Jackson