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Bo Jackson

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Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson (born November 30, 1962 in Bessemer, Alabama) is a retired American athlete and a former multi-sport professional. Jackson played at the highest level of sports in the United States in both American football and baseball.

In football, Jackson played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders of the National Football League. In baseball, Jackson played left field and designated hitter for the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox, and the California Angels of the American League in Major League Baseball.

Although a hip injury severely impaired his professional career, Jackson was the first athlete to be named an All-Star in two major sports.[1] Before his professional career, he earned the 1985 Heisman Trophy, the prize annually awarded to the most outstanding collegiate football player in the United States. He also ran a 4.12 40 yard dash, still considered the fastest verifiable 40 time at an NFL Combine.[2][3]

In 1989 and 1990, Jackson's name became known beyond just sports fans through the "Bo Knows" advertising campaign, a series of advertisements by Nike promoting a cross-training athletic shoe named for Jackson.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Jackson, the eighth of ten children, was named after Vince Edwards, his mother's favorite actor. His family described him as a "wild boar," as he would constantly get into trouble. The nickname was eventually shortened to "Bo." [4][5]

Jackson attended McAdory High School, where he rushed for 1,175 yards as a running back as a high school senior. Jackson also hit twenty home runs in twenty-five games for McAdory's baseball team during his senior season. He was also a two-time state champion in the decathlon.

College (1982–1985)Edit

In June 1982, Jackson was selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the MLB draft, but he instead chose to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship.[6] He was recruited by head coach Pat Dye and then Auburn assistant coach Bobby Wallace. At Auburn, he proved to be a tremendous athlete in both baseball and football.

Jackson graduated from Auburn with a degree in adult education.

College baseballEdit

Jackson batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 RBI in 1985. In a 1985 baseball game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Foley Field in Athens, Georgia, 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 in the 1986 baseball season after taking a flight to Florida to undergo a physical examination for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

College footballEdit

During his time playing for the Auburn Tigers football team, he ran for 4,303 career yards,[6] which was the fourth best performance in SEC history behind Herschel Walker of Georgia. 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 full back of sdk over the head of a defender. Auburn went on to win the game 33-26.

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 Auburn-Alabama game, 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 by winning the Sugar Bowl, where Jackson was named Most Valuable Player. In 1984, Jackson's junior year (most of which Jackson missed due to injury), he earned Most Valuable Player honors at Liberty Bowl.[7]

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 the University of 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. For his performance in 1985, Jackson was awarded the Heisman Trophy in what was considered the closest margin of victory ever in the history of the award, winning over University of Iowa Quarterback Chuck Long.[6]

Jackson's football number 34 was officially retired at Auburn 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). In 2007, Jackson was ranked #8 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list.

College track and fieldEdit

Jackson qualified for the 100 yard dash in his freshman and sophomore years. He considered joining the USA Olympic team, but sprinting would not gain him the financial security of the MLB or NFL, nor would he have sufficient time to train, given his other commitments.

Professional careerEdit


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, the defending World Series champions, 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 voted to start for the American League All-Star team, and was named the game's MVP for his play on both offense and defense. In the top of the first inning, he caught Pedro Guerrero's 2-out line drive to left-center field to save two runs.[8] Then he led off the bottom of the first—his first All-star plate appearance—with a monstrous 448 foot home run off Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants. NBC-TV announcer Vin Scully exclaimed, "Look at that one! Bo Jackson says hello!" Wade Boggs followed with his own home run, making them the first pair in All-Star history to lead off their side's first with back-to-back home runs.[9]. In the 2nd inning, he beat out the throw on a potential double play to drive in the eventual winning run. He then stole 2nd base, making him one of two players in All-Star Game history to hit a home run and steal a base in the same game (the other is Willie Mays). Jackson Finished the game with two hits in four at-bats, one run scored and two RBI.

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 29, 1989 against the Baltimore Orioles, Jackson, batting against Jeff Ballard, turned to the home plate umpire and attempted to call time out as Ballard was delivering the ball. The time-out wasn't granted, but Jackson recovered to swing and hit the pitch over the left-field wall for a home run despite only really seeing the ball as it was on its way to the plate.

On July 11, 1990 against the 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.

During the 1990 season Jackson hit HRs in 4 consecutive at-bats tying a Major League record (held by a few people). His 4th came off of Randy Johnson after hitting his first 3 before a stint on the DL.

After a poor at bat he was known to snap the bat over his knee, or with his helmet on, over his head. In some instances he would simply hold both ends of the bat out in front of him and snap it with just sheer arm strength.

Before Jackson finished his career in California he spent two years playing for the Chicago White Sox, mostly as a Designated Hitter, as his hip injury hampered his ability to play the outfield. It was with the White Sox that he made his only post-season appearance in the 1993 American League Championship Series, which Chicago lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games.

While with the Sox, Jackson promised his mom that once he returned from his hip replacement surgery that he would hit a home run for her. Before he could return, his mother died. In his first at bat after surgery he hit a home run to right field. Jackson had the ball engraved in his mother's tombstone.

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, with 32 and RBI, with 105.

Notable achievementsEdit

  • 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)


Jackson was drafted first overall in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the Buccaneers, not wanting their new draftee to injure himself playing baseball for Auburn that year, took Jackson on a trip in a private plane that cost him his college eligibility. They also gave Jackson an ultimatum to choose baseball or football. This prompted him to sign with the Kansas City Royals[10]. Since he did not sign with a team by the 1987 draft, his rights were forfeited by Tampa Bay and his name was thrown back into the draft. The Los Angeles Raiders selected Jackson in the 7th round with the 183rd overall pick.[11] Raiders owner Al Davis supported Jackson and his baseball career and got Jackson to sign a contract by offering him a salary that was comparable to a full-time starting running back but allowing Jackson to only play part-time until the baseball season was done.

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: a remarkable achievement, in light of the fact that he was a "second string" player behind Marcus Allen.

Jackson turned in a 221-yard rushing performance on Monday Night Football in 1987 against the Seattle Seahawks. During this game, he ran over Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth, who had insulted Jackson and promised in a media event before the game to contain Jackson. 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 teammates soon following. Jackson scored two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in the game.

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 two 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 comebackEdit

On January 13, 1991, during a Raiders playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson suffered a serious hip injury while being tackled by linebacker Kevin Walker. The injury ended his football career and seriously threatened his baseball career. After Jackson was tackled and lying in pain on the ground, he allegedly popped his hip back into place. In an interview on Untold, his Royals' teammate George Brett, who attended the game, said he asked the trainer what had happened to Bo. The trainer replied "Bo says he felt his hip come out of the 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, as a result of decreased blood supply to the head of his left femur. This caused deterioration of the femoral head, ultimately requiring that the hip 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.

Before returning to his true professional sports, Bo tried his luck in basketball. Being a natural athlete, Bo played briefly for a semi-pro basketball team in L.A. Jackson quickly retired.

Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and in his first at-bat, against the New York Yankees, 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; yet while his power remained, he no longer possessed his blazing speed. During his time with the White Sox, Jackson had no stolen bases, though he did play in his only career postseason games. For the 1994 season, he was signed as a free agent by the California Angels for one final season, where he hit another 13 home runs in 201 at bats, before retiring during the strike.


"Bo Knows..."Edit

Jackson became a popular figure for his athleticism in multiple sports through the late 1980s and early 1990s. He endorsed Nike and was involved in 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!"[12] (In a later version of the spot, Jackson is shown playing the guitar expertly, after which an impressed Diddley says, " do know Diddley, don't you?")

Another clip, envisioning Jackson playing ice hockey, was followed by Wayne Gretzky shaking his head in disbelief and dismissing the effort with a quick "No." (In his autobiography, Gretzky says his negative rejoinder came in frustration after multiple takes of him saying "Bo knows hockey!" that the director didn't like. He also said the bits showing Bo playing hockey were actually filmed on a wooden floor, with Jackson in stocking feet.) 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.

In a later spot, Jackson sees all the hoopla surrounding him and says, "I have rehab to do! I don't have time for this!", after which boxer George Foreman says, "But I do!" and steps in to finish the commercial, now re-dubbed "George Knows."

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, portrayed by Dean Cain. Bo clearly is the better athlete, until Clark uses his flying abilities to catch the ball. Bo replies, "Bo don't know that!"

Bo also made an appearance during in an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Will Smith where he asks Will, as "his close personal friend", some advice on what to cook for a party saying "an' when it comes to cooking, Bo don't know diddley".

Video gamesEdit

Jackson's legend was further cemented by his digital counterpart, affectionately known as "Tecmo Bo", in the video game Tecmo Super Bowl for the Nintendo Entertainment System. "Tecmo Bo" is one of the best running backs -- and arguably the most lethal athlete—in video game history.[13] Players using "Tecmo Bo" have been able to rush for 800-900 yards per game and run all over the field on one play and run out the time of a whole quarter without being tackled.

In retirement, his legend is intertwined with what many 25-35 year-olds recall as the second golden age of home video gaming. 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.[14]

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.

Bo Jackson had also made an appearance in the recent video game NFL Street 2 released in 2004 as the half back in the Gridiron Legends team. Unlocked by performing a wall move on a hotspot on the sportsplex field, he is available in the pickup pool for pickup games where you pick 7 players from the NFL. When playing the street event "open field showdown", if you had not made an extremely fast character already in own the city mode or NFL challenge, he will always be picked by the computer. If you completed NFL challenge, you can choose him to be on your team or any other Gridiron legend once you complete the mode.


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 (although none of the athletes featured actually provided their voices).


In 2007, Nike released a set of Nike Dunk shoes honoring Bo Jackson.[15] The set featured three colorways based on previously released Nike shoes: the "Bo Knows" Trainer I, Trainer 91, and Medicine Ball Trainer III.[16]

Life after sportsEdit


In 1993, Jackson was honored with the Tony Conigliaro Award. In 1995, he completed his bachelor of science degree at Auburn to fulfill the promise he made to his mother.[6]

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: The New Adventures of Superman and Married with Children. He later appeared in small roles in the films The Chamber and Fakin' Da Funk.

Jackson served as the President of the HealthSouth Sports Medicine Council, part of Birmingham, Alabama based HealthSouth Corporation. He was also spokesman for HealthSouth's "Go For It": Roadshow.


The Chicago White Sox chose Jackson to throw the ceremonial first pitch before Game Two of the 2005 World Series. The White Sox would win that game on a 9th inning walk-off home run, then go on to sweep Houston for their first Championship in 88 years.

In 2006, Jackson appeared on the Spike TV sports reality show, Pros vs. Joes. In his second appearance, he easily defeated amateur athletes in a home run-hitting contest. When he bunted instead of swinging on his final try for a home run, the announcer stated, "Bo knows taunting."

In 2007, Bo came together with John Cangelosi to form Bo Jackson Elite Sports Complex, an 88,000 square foot multi-sports dome facility in Lockport, Illinois. He is part-owner and CEO of the facility. He has been successful with other investments, like his food company, N'Genuity. He often speaks that while he may have been great for sports, sports were no doubt greater for him considering the post-career opportunities that have been afforded to him.[citation needed]

Jackson and his family live in Burr Ridge, Illinois. He is among a group of investors who own The Burr Ridge Bank and Trust in the Chicago suburbs where Bo lives. He's on the bank's board of directors and is said to be "rolling up his sleeves" and working among everyone else to make sure the small bank becomes a success during tough financial times. According to Jackson, "We have no type of debt, like all the other banks. We're a small community bank and one thing we all decided, is that if we are going to do a bank in our community, it needs to be owned by the people who live in the community."

On May 9, 2009, Jackson delivered the commencement speech at Auburn's graduation ceremony. His speech was centered around the benefits of stepping out of one's comfort zone, which he has successfully done.[17]


  • "Back before I injured my hip, I thought going to the gym was for wimps."
  • "Being the 8th out of 10 kids, and being the one that stayed in trouble, I sort of became a momma's boy."
  • "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 on life after sports.
  • "First of all, I really never imagined myself being a professional athlete."
  • "I also tell them that your education can take you way farther than a football, baseball, track, or basketball will - that's just the bottom line."--Bo Jackson on education
  • "I am a firm believer in if you can't get it the old fashioned way, you don't need it"--Bo Jackson on earning things.
  • "I guarantee you that's what Jeff Gordon does. He uses everything the fans throw at him to stoke his fire and it drives him to be better at what he does."--Bo Jackson on Jeff Gordon
  • "I once broke an aluminum bat over my knee in college" joking with reporters staring at him in total disbelief.
  • "Everything can be taken away from you. The government can take your money, your cars, your house. But the government can’t take your education from you. Let athletics be the second most important thing on your list when you’re in college."[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 ESPN Classic. Retrieved on 2007-06-01.
  2. Cooney, Frank (2008-02-24). With 40-yard dash times, nothing's quite 'official'. USA Today. Retrieved on 2008-10-29.
  3. Cooney, Frank (2009-02-18). History by the numbers: Combine has come a long way. CBS Sports. Retrieved on 2009-03-20.
  4. Morrison, Alec, Bo Knows the Heisman, CNN/Sports Illustrated,, November 4 2000
  5. Weinre, Michael, Bo Knows Best, ESPN,, 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Template:Cite video
  7. Liberty Bowl MVPs. Liberty Bowl. Retrieved on 2007-08-18.
  8. Baseball Almanac|
  9. Baseball Almanac 1989 All-Star game play by play |
  10. Sport Illustrated (accessdate=2001-02-21). Say It Ain't So: Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  11. Flatter, Ron (accessdate=2007-08-21). Bo knows stardom and disappointment.
  12. Best Spots of the 90's. AdWeek (2000-03-20). Retrieved on March 19 2007.
  13. - Page2
  14. Video game fame -
  15. EUKicks - Nike “Bo Jackson” Dunk High Pack"
  16. Nicekicks - Bo Jackson Trainer Dunk Highs
  17. Gribble, Andrew (2009-03-10). AU FOOTBALL: Bo talks life after football. Auburn University Beat Reporter. Retrieved on 2009-05-10.
  18. Gribble, Andrew (2009-03-10). AU FOOTBALL: Bo talks life after football. Auburn University Beat Reporter. Retrieved on 2009-05-10.
  • Gutman, Bill, Bo Jackson, 1991, Simon Spotlight Entertainment
  • White, Ellen Emerson, Bo Jackson: Playing the Games, 1990

External linksEdit


Template:Cfbhof Template:Heisman


Preceded by:
Doug Flutie
Heisman Trophy Winner
Succeeded by:
Vinny Testaverde
Preceded by:
Terry Steinbach
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Most Valuable Player

Succeeded by:
Julio Franco
Preceded by:
Rick Sutcliffe
AL Comeback Player of the Year
Succeeded by:
José Canseco

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