Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson (born November 30, 1962 in Bessemer) is a multi-sport professional athlete who was the first person to be named an All-Star in both the National Football League and the Major Leagues.
Jackson was the eighth of ten children. He was named after Vince Edward, his mother's favorite actor. His family described him as a "wild boar", which was eventually shortened to "Bo". Jackson attended McAdory High School, where he was an impressive athlete. He ran the 100 meters in 10.39 seconds, an excellent time for any high school runner, but especially for one weighing nearly 200 pounds. He was an excellent running back and a very good line backer, rushing for 1,173 yards in his final high school season. Jackson was also a talented baseball player, hitting twenty home runs in the twenty-five games of his Senior year to tie a national record.
In June 1982, Jackson was drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round but chose to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship instead. He was recruited by head coach Pat Dye and then Auburn assistant coach Bobby Wallace. At Auburn, Bo proved to be an astounding all-around athlete. In both baseball and football, Jackson's feats insured his permanent place in the school's history.
At Auburn, Jackson batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs in 1985. In a 1985 baseball game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Foley Field in Athens, Jackson led Auburn to victory with a 4-for-5 performance, with three home runs and a double. Jackson launched his last home run that day into a brand new light standard. Jackson was declared ineligible to play his final baseball season at Auburn (1986) after taking a flight to Florida to take a physical for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
During his time playing for Auburn's football team, he ran for 4,303 career yards, which was the second best performance in SEC history behind the legendary Herschel Walker of Georgia (5,259 yards during 1980-82). With 4,303 rushing yards on 650 rushing attempts, Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards per carry, which set the SEC record (minimum 400 rushes).
In 1982, Jackson's freshman year, Auburn played Boston College in the Tangerine Bowl, where Jackson made a one-handed grab of an option pitch that quarterback Randy Campbell lobbed over the head of a defender. Jackson proceeded to score on the play, despite being hit by several defenders along the sideline.
In 1983, as a sophomore, Jackson rushed for 1,213 yards on 158 carries, for an average of 7.7 yards per carry, which was the 2nd best single-season average in SEC history (min. 100 rushes). In the 1983 Iron Bowl, Jackson rushed for 256 yards on 20 rushes (12.8 yards per carry), which at the time was the sixth-most rushing yards gained in a game in SEC history and the 2nd best yard-per-rush average in a game (min. 20 attempts) in SEC history. Auburn finished the season with the Sugar Bowl, where Jackson was named MVP. In 1984, Jackson's junior year, he earned MVP honors at Liberty Bowl.
In 1985, Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards, which was the second best single-season performance in SEC history behind Herschel Walker's 1,891 rushing yards for Georgia in 1981. That year, he averaged 6.4 yards per rush, which at the time was the best single-season average in SEC history (min. 200 rushes). For his performance in 1985, Jackson was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Jackson's football number 34 was officially retired at Auburn University in a halftime ceremony on October 31, 1992. His is one of only three numbers retired at Auburn, the others being 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's number 7, and Sullivan's teammate and favorite receiver, Terry Beasley (88).
Jackson also qualified for the 60-yard dash in his freshman and sophomore years. He considered joining the U.S. Olympic team, but was informed sprinting would not gain him the financial security of the MLB or NFL, nor have the time to train.
Jackson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the first pick of the 1986 NFL Draft, but he opted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals instead. He spent most of the season with the Memphis Chicks in the minor leagues before being called up for regular duty in 1987, where he had 22 home runs, 53 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as an outfielder for the Royals. He began to show his true potential in 1989, when he was selected for the American League All-Star team, and was named the game's MVP for his play on both offense and defense. His great plays in the game included a monstrous home run off Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants which landed an estimated 448 feet from home plate - in his first All-Star at-bat. Legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully (calling the game for NBC-TV) was moved to comment, "And look at that one! Bo Jackson says hello!" In 1990, he raised his batting average, but the uncertainty of his two sport loyalties may have swayed Royals management to not utilize him as much as he could have been.
On June 5, 1989, Jackson ran down a long line-drive deep to left field on a hit-and-run play against the Seattle Mariners. With speedy Harold Reynolds running from first base on the play, Scott Bradley's hit would have been deep enough to score him against most outfielders. But Jackson, from the warning track, turned flat footed and fired a strike to catcher Bob Boone, who tagged the sliding Reynolds out. Jackson's throw reached Boone on the fly. Interviewed for the "Bo Jackson" episode of ESPN Classic's SportsCentury, Reynolds admitted that he thought there was no way anyone would throw him out on such a deep drive into the gap in left-center, and was shocked to see his teammate telling him to slide as he rounded third base.
On July 11, 1990 against the Baltimore Orioles, Jackson performed his famous "wall run", when he caught a ball approximately 2-3 strides away from the wall. As he caught the ball at full tilt, Jackson looked up and noticed the wall and began to run up the wall, one leg reaching higher as he ascended. He ran along the wall almost parallel to the ground, and came down with the catch, to avoid impact and the risk of injury from the fence.
Before Jackson finished his career in California he spent two years playing for the Chicago White Sox, including playing for the Birmingham Barons in the minor leagues. After a poor at bat he was known to snap the bat over his knee.
In his eight baseball seasons, Jackson had a career batting average of .250, hit 141 home runs and had 415 RBIs, with a slugging average of .474. His best year was 1989, with his effort earning him all-star status. In '89 Bo ranked fourth in the league in both homers and RBI's with 32/105.
- AL All-Star (1989)
- 1989 All-Star Game MVP
- 1993 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1987-1990)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1989)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1989)
Following the 1987 baseball season, Jackson decided to again play football (just as a "hobby", he said) and joined the NFL's Oakland Raiders, who drafted Jackson in the 7th round of the 1987 NFL Draft after his name returned to the draft pool due to Jackson and the Buccaneers never reaching an agreement.
Joining the Raiders midway through the 1987 season, Jackson rushed for 554 yards on 81 carries in just seven games. Over the next three seasons, Bo Jackson would rush for 2,228 more yards and 12 touchdowns. What made his stats so impressive was the fact that he was a back-up to Raiders' legend Marcus Allen.
Football fans remember his 221-yard rushing performance on Monday Night Football in 1987 against the Seattle Seahawks. During this memorable performance he literally ran over Seahawks star linebacker Brian Bosworth, who had insulted Jackson and promised to contain him in a media event before the game. He also made a 91 yard run to the outside, untouched down the sideline. He continued sprinting until finally slowing down as he passed through the entrance to the field tunnel to the dressing rooms with teamates soon following.
Rumor has it that he was the only man to hit the New Orleans Saints' Superdome scoreboard, suspended from its roof since its construction in 1975. In his rookie season Bo casually picked up a ball from the ball bag, threw it, and hit it on his first try.
Prior to his hip injury, Bo at 6'1", 222 lbs., allegedly ran a 4.12 40 yard dash at the 1986 NFL combine, as reported in the February 27, 1986, USA Today. This was one of the fastest NFL 40 times ever, regardless of position, and demonstrated strength comparable to the likes of Jim Brown. In his four seasons in the NFL, Jackson rushed for 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average yards per carry of 5.4. He also caught 40 passes for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jackson's 221 yards on November 30, 1987, just 29 days after his first NFL carry, is still a Monday Night Football record.
Injury and comeback
During a Raiders playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1991, Jackson suffered a serious hip injury which ended his football career and seriously threatened his baseball career. After Bo Jackson was tackled and lying in pain on the ground, he popped his hip back into place. In an interview on Untold, George Brett who attended the game said he asked the trainer what had happened to Bo. The trainer replied "well Bo says he felt his hip come out of socket, so he popped it back in, but that's just impossible, no one's that strong."
Following surgery and rehabilitation on his injured hip, it was discovered that Jackson had avascular necrosis, which resulted in decreased blood supply to the femoral head of his left hip. Ultimately this led to a deterioration of the femoral head, which required his hip to be replaced. Jackson missed the entire 1992 baseball season. When he announced soon after his surgery that he would play baseball again, many thought that goal to be unrealistic, especially at the Major League level.
Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and incredibly at his first at-bat, he homered on his first swing. The next day Nike ran a full-page ad in USA Today; it simply read "Bo Knew."
He would hit 16 home runs and 45 RBIs that season; but while his power remained, he no longer possessed his blazing speed. During his time with the White Sox, Jackson hit only 13 extra-base hits and had no stolen bases. For the 1994 season, he was signed as a free agent by the California Angels for one final season before retiring.
Jackson became a popular figure for his athleticism in multiple sports through the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was endorsed by Nike and launched a popular ad campaign called "Bo Knows" which envisioned Jackson attempting to take up a litany of other sports, including tennis, golf, luge, auto racing, and even playing blues music with Bo Diddley, who scolded Jackson by telling him "You don't know diddley!"
Another clip, envisioning Jackson playing ice hockey, was followed by a clip of Wayne Gretzky shaking his head in disbelief and dismissing the effort with a quick "No." T-shirts sold by Nike capitalizing on their successful ad campaign had a list of Jackson's sports - both real and imagined - with hockey crossed out.
Jackson also poked fun at the ad campaign during a guest appearance on a first season episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In the scene, he played basketball with Clark Kent, portrayed by Dean Cain. Bo clearly is the better athlete, until Clark uses his flying abilites to catch the ball. Bo replies, "Bo don't know that!"
Following on the heels of this widespread fame, Jackson appeared in ProStars, an NBC Saturday morning cartoon. The show featured Bo, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan fighting crime and helping children.
Life after sports
In 1993, Jackson was honored with the Tony Conigliaro Award. In 1995, he completed his bachelor of science degree at Auburn to fulfill a promise he made to his mother.
Through the 1990s, Jackson dabbled in acting, having made several television guest appearances first on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" in 1990 as well as "Lois & Clark" and "Married with Children." He latered appeared in small roles in the films The Chamber and Fakin' Da Funk.
Jackson was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game Two of the 2005 World Series. Jackson was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2015.
In 2022 Jackson donated $170,000 to help pay for funeral expenses for those killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Jackson's legend was further cemented by his dominating presence as the most powerful player in the video game Tecmo Super Bowl for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Jackson has commented that fans will often come up to him and regale him with stories not of his actual football feats, but rather memorable Tecmo Bowl plays .
Bo also had his own video game for the original Game Boy portable gaming system, Bo Jackson's Hit and Run. The game featured both baseball and football, but had no pro licenses for either sport and could not use any team or players' names. Released around the same time was Bo Jackson Baseball for the Nintendo NES system and IBM compatible computers. The game was heavily criticized by game reviewers and obtained poor sales results.
- Randy Campbell, the quarterback at Auburn from 1982-1983, wrote a song about Jackson that was published and sold as a single in Auburn University bookstores.
- WAPI-FM DJs Mark and Brian produced a parody of the Tempatations' "My Girl" about Bo Jackson called "My Bo."
- Jackson gave his MVP trophy from the 1984 Sugar Bowl to fellow running back Lionel James, who mentored Jackson during his freshman and sophomore seasons.
- Jackson was the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he said he would not play with the team the day before the draft and decided to concentrate on his baseball career.
- Jackson is part of the NFL Legends team in NFL Street 2. Also in the game is a young player named Vincent Jackson, but the two are unrelated.
- Jackson appears in the opening scene for the telecasts for SEC football on CBS as a member of the Auburn Tigers.
- Bo made a cameo appearance in the Sesame Street sing along, Wubba Wubba Wubba, singing the "Monster in the Mirror" song with Grover.
- Jackson was also famous for his temper. After striking out, he would occasionally break his bat over his own knee.
- "Bo Jackson (January 19, 2007) Wikipedia - accessed January 19, 2007