It is a rough road for any athlete to perfect a single sport and very few in the world have the option of becoming the best in two sports. Bo Jackson was one of these rare individuals. His careers in both baseball and football are legendary; and he accomplished it all with a sense of ease. Often described as one of the best athletes in the world, Bo set himself apart by accomplishing a high standard of excellence.
Vincent Edward Jackson (“Bo”) was born in 1962 in Bessemer, Alabama. He was number eight out of a family of ten children and often referred to as “the wild boar hog”. The reason for the reference was simply that he was always getting into unruly trouble. The name evolved to “Bo” and that was what he preferred to go by for the rest of his life. Bo was raised by a single mother, who worked multiple jobs to support her family and Bo was a constant distraction with the trouble he got into and caused. By the time Jackson was thirteen he was forced to change his bad behavior when he had to take on odd jobs to pay for damage he had caused. It was then that he decided to play baseball.
Bo Jackson had an innate talent for baseball, playing at an early age with teams that consisted of grown men. He also had a work ethic that was far more mature than a kid of his age. A track coach, Dick Atchinson, enlisted Jackson to join their team and Atchinson became a father figure and mentor for the boy. By the time Bo graduated high school he was already being romanced by the Yankees. He instead took his mother’s advice to continue his education and entered Auburn University. He is distinguished as being the first athlete to ever letter in track, football and baseball.
Even though he was top for selection of the draft for the major leagues, he made the decision post junior year to continue in school. By his senior year – he had pretty much topped the charts. His baseball performance was outstanding, bringing Auburn into a victory win against the Georgia Bulldogs. Both freshman and sophomore years gave Jackson another area of excellence in the track and field area. He considered the Olympics, but focused on the benefits of an education. Bo Jackson had earned, for the third straight year, the honor of All-Southeastern Conference running back and named All-American. He would crown his awards by winning the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
By 1986 Bo was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but chose to play for the Kansas City Royals baseball team. This was prompted due to Tampa Bay’s requirement for him to choose school or them. Bo played with phenomenal force and by 1989 he was requested to play with the American League All-Star team and voted as the MVP (most valuable player). Jackson made history by being one of only two players in an All-Star game to steal a base and hit a home run in the same game. This escalated Bo to equal standing with Willy Mays for this feat. Jackson’s baseball seasons continued to bring roaring fans and he seemed to always set up a play that made the crowds happy. He had such excellent performance that, if he did poorly in batting, he would be seen to break the bat over his knees. Jackson joined the Chicago Whitesox and played for two years. He had to leave sports for hip surgery.
The 1987 draft brought Jackson into Los Angeles Raiders with an agreement that he could finish his baseball time. Jackson entered the team as a second string player but made over twelve touchdowns in three seasons. A game against the Seattle Seahawks brought additional media attention when a linebacker of the opposing team made a threat to ‘contain Jackson’. Bo proved his stuff by sprinting, untouched, into a touchdown and didn’t stop until he sprinted to the dressing room.
An injury in 1990 brought a medical discovery that Jackson had to have his hip replaced. While Bo did return, his performance was hindered and he couldn’t play to his own standards.
Bo Jackson became a well known media member when he appeared in commercials as well as marketing blitz from his supporting companies. His appearances also included guest spots on a variety of television shows as well as video games.
Bo Jackson, a man of multiple talents – all excellent, remains in the minds and hearts of sports fans in the U.S.