2nd round draft pick by the New York Yankees in the 1982 MLB Draft. 1st overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 4th round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in the 1986 MLB Draft. 7th round draft pick by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1987 NFL Draft.
Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson grew up in Bessemer, Alabama. Jackson was the eighth of ten children in his family. Bo Jackson attended McAdory High School. During his senior season, Jackson rushed for 1,175 yards. He also hit 20 home runs in 25 games during his senior year. Jackson was also a two-time state champion in the decathlon. Both times he competed in the decathlon, he only competed in 9 of the 10 events. Bo had built such a commanding lead, he did not even need to compete in the final event. In 1982, Bo Jackson also set state records in the indoor high jump (6’9″) and the triple jump (48’8″).
After high school, Bo Jackson was selected in the 2nd round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, but turned down the offer in order to go to Auburn University on a football scholarship. Jackson promised his mother that he would be the first person in his family to go to a major university. While at Auburn, Bo Jackson also decided to walk-on to play baseball for the Tigers.
Throughout his college football career, Jackson rushed for 4,303 yards, 4th best in SEC history at this time. He also finished his career with a 6.6 yards per carry average, which was also the highest in SEC history at this time. In 1985, Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 1,786 yards and 6.4 yards per carry on the season. Currently, Jackson is one of only 3 players to have their jersey number retired by Auburn Football.
During his senior baseball season at Auburn, Jackson was having the best year of his college career. Jackson was told by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that a visit on a private jet had been approved by the NCAA. Unfortunately, Jackson was lied to and he was ruled ineligible for the remainder of his college career. The Buccaneers held the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Following the incident, Jackson warned Tampa Bay that they would be wasting a pick on him if they decided to draft him.
While at Auburn, Bo Jackson also ran track and field. He recorded a 10.39 second time in the 100 meter dash, which qualified him for NCAA Nationals his freshman and sophomore years. Jackson considered a professional career in sprinting, but decided that it would not give him the financial stability of the NFL or MLB, and he would also not have sufficient time to train with his other sports commitments. Before the 1986 NFL Draft, Bo Jackson ran a 4.12 40-yard dash, which still stands as the fastest recorded time in NFL Combine history.
The Buccaneers decided to draft Bo Jackson with the #1 overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, but Jackson lived up to his word and did not sign with the team. At this point, he decided to focus only on baseball.
After this, the Kansas City Royals drafted Jackson in the 4th round of the 1986 MLB Draft. Jackson signed with the team and got to work. Jackson played just 53 minor league baseball games before being called up to Kansas City in September of 1986.
During spring training in 1987, Bo Jackson was told the he had another chance to play professional football once again. Jackson was told that he had been drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 7th round of the NFL Draft. After speaking with Raiders owner Al Davis, Jackson worked out a contract that would allow him to play baseball with the Royals until the completion of their season, and then report to Los Angeles to play for the Raiders whenever he became available. Jackson’s contract was also in-line with the top-tier running backs of the time. Bo Jackson decided he was going to play NFL football as a hobby. Most people take up golf, fishing, reading, or something of that nature as a hobby. Bo Jackson decided he would play football at the highest level, just to have fun and stay busy.
In 1989, Bo Jackson was voted to start in the MLB All-Star Game for the American League. In his first All-Star Game plate appearance, Bo Jackson hit a 448-foot monster home run. Later in the game, Jackson stole second base, making him only the second player in MLB-All Star game history to hit a home run and steal a base in the same All-Star Game (Willie Mays was the first). Bo Jackson was named the 1989 MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player.
Bo Jackson’s had some of the craziest plays that baseball has ever seen. One of these was when he threw out the speedy Harold Reynolds at the plate from the outfield wall. Jackson grabbed the line-drive off the wall, turned, and flat-footed threw a missile to home plate. Bo Jackson took a step and threw a strike that hit the catcher on the fly from the 316 sign in left field. Most people don’t have the arm strength to make that throw on the fly with their momentum heading towards home plate, let alone with one of the fastest players in baseball trying to score on the play.
Playing in Baltimore, a ball was hit to deep left-center field. In a full sprint, Bo made an over the shoulder running catch. Knowing he didn’t have time to stop without risking an injury during the collision with the wall, Bo continued to run and proceeded to run up the wall, almost becoming parallel with the playing field.. Bo took three steps up the wall before dismounting and coming back to Earth.
In 1989, Bo Jackson had his best season in the NFL. He rushed for 950 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. In 1990, Bo was selected to the only Pro Bowl of his career.
Jackson’s NFL career, and ultimately pro sports career, was cut short after suffering a devastating hip injury on what seemed to be a routine tackle. In the film, You Don’t Know Bo, Jackson says that he popped his own dislocated hip back into place. Doctors later discovered a fracture on one of Bo’s hip bones. Within one month of his injury, Bo Jackson had been diagnosed with avascular necrosis. Avascular necrosis is when a bone and the surrounding tissue die due to the interruption on blood supply. Jackson also lost all of the cartilage that was supporting his hip. The injury forced him to retire from football and he was also cut by the Kansas City Royals because of the injury. Bo Jackson needed to have a hip replacement before returning to play in the MLB.
When he returned to the MLB, Jackson signed with the Chicago White Sox. In 2 years with Chicago, Bo only managed to play in 108 games. While recovering from the hip replacement surgery, Bo promised his mother a home run when he returned. Unfortunately, before he returned, his mother passed away. In his first at-bat back from surgery, Bo Jackson hit a home run to right field. Bo Jackson encased the ball and bolted it to the dresser in his mother’s room.
In 1994, Bo signed with the California Angels. That season was cut short by the 1994-1995 baseball strike and is when Jackson decided it was time to retire.
Nike turned Bo Jackson into one of their biggest spokesman throughout his career. Nike launched the “Bo Knows” campaign, which they still somewhat use today. Bo Jackson is still called “the greatest athlete in video game history”. The 1989 Tecmo Bowl game made Jackson virtually impossible to defend.
Bo Jackson is one of the most legendary of athletes of all-time as it is. Imagine the legacy that would have followed if he was able to stay completely healthy. Bo Jackson is the only player in history to be named to both the MLB All-Star Game and the NFL Pro Bowl.
Bo Jackson wasn’t the greatest baseball player ever. Bo Jackson wasn’t the greatest football player ever. But in my opinion, he was the greatest all-around athlete ever.