Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson was born on 30 November, 1962 in Bessemer, Alabama, USA. Bo Jackson is an American athlete and a former multi-sport professional. Bo Jackson played at the highest level of sports in the United States in both American football and baseball.
In football, Bo Jackson played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders of the National Football League. In baseball, Bo 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, Bo Jackson was the 1st athlete to be named an All-Star in 2 major sports. 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. Bo Jackson also ran a 4.12 40 yard dash.
In 1989 and 1990, Bo 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 Bo Jackson.
Bo Jackson, the 8th of 10 children, was named after Vince Edwards, his mother’s favourite actor. Bo Jackson’s family described him as a “wild boar,” as he would constantly get into trouble. The nickname was eventually shortened to “Bo.”
Bo Jackson attended McAdory High School, where he rushed for 1,175 yards as a running back in his senior-year football season. That year, Bo Jackson also hit 20home runs in 25 games for McAdory’s baseball team.
In June 1982, Bo Jackson was selected by the New York Yankees in the 2nd round of the MLB draft, but he instead chose to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship. Bo Jackson 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.
Bo Jackson graduated from Auburn with a degree in adult education.
Bo 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, Bo Jackson led Auburn to victory with a 4-for-5 performance, with 3 home runs and a double. Bo Jackson launched his last home run that day into a brand new light standard. Bo 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.
During his time playing for the Auburn Tigers football team, he ran for 4,303 career yards, which was the 4th best performance in SEC history behind Herschel Walker of Georgia. Bo Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards per carry, which set the SEC record (minimum 400 rushes).
In 1982, Bo Jackson’s freshman year, Auburn Tigers played Boston College in the Tangerine Bowl, where Bo Jackson made a one-handed grab of an option pitch that quarterback Randy Campbell lobbed over the head of a defender. Auburn Tigers went on to win the game.
In 1983, as a sophomore, Bo 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 Tigers-Alabama game, Bo Jackson rushed for 256yards on 20 rushes (12.8 yards per carry), which at the time was the 6th-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 Tigers finished the season by winning the Sugar Bowl, where Bo Jackson was named Most Valuable Player. In 1984, Bo Jackson’s junior year (most of which Bo Jackson missed due to injury), he earned Most Valuable Player honours at Liberty Bowl.
In 1985, Bo Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards, which was the 2nd 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, Bo 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.
Bo Jackson’s football number 34 was officially retired at Auburn Tigers in a halftime ceremony on October 31, 1992. Bo Jackson is 1 of only 3 numbers retired at Auburn Tigers, the others being 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan’s number 7, and Pat Sullivan’s teammate and favourite receiver, Terry Beasley (88). In 2007, Bo Jackson was ranked #8 on ESPN’s Top 25 Players In College Football History list.
Bo Jackson qualified for the 60-yard dash in his freshman and sophomore years. Bo Jackson 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.
Bo Jackson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the 1st pick of the 1986 NFL Draft, but he opted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals, the defending World Series champions, instead. Bo Jackson 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.
Bo Jackson 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. Bo Jackson’s 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 1st All-Star at-bat. Bo Jackson also beat out an infield hit that resulted in the game-winning RBI. In addition to this, he had a stolen base, making him 1 of only 2 players in All-Star Game history to hit a home run and steal a base in the same game (the other is Willie Mays). 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 2 sport loyalties may have swayed Royals management to not utilize him as much as he could have been.
On 5 June, 1989, Bo 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 1st base on the play, Scott Bradley’s hit would have been deep enough to score him against most outfielders. But Bo Jackson, from the warning track, turned flat footed and fired a strike to catcher Bob Boone, who tagged the sliding Reynolds out. Bo Jackson’s throw reached Bob Boone on the fly. Interviewed for the “Bo Jackson” episode of ESPN Classic’s SportsCentury, Harold 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 3rd base.
On 11 July, 1990 against the Baltimore Orioles, Bo 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, Bo Jackson looked up and noticed the wall and began to run up the wall, 1 leg reaching higher as he ascended. Bo Jackson 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.
After a poor at bat he was known to snap the bat over his knee, or with his helmet on, over his head. This is illustrated in Bo Jackson’s 1991 Score “Bo Breaker” card.
Before Bo Jackson finished his career in California he spent 2 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 6 games.
While with the Sox, Bo Jackson promised his mum 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 1st at bat after surgery he hit a home run to right field. Bo Jackson had the ball engraved in his mother’s tombstone.
In his 8 baseball seasons, Bo Jackson had a career batting average of .250, hit 141 home runs and had 415 RBIs, with a slugging average of .474. Bo Jackson’s best year was 1989, with his effort earning him all-star status. In ’89, Bo Jackson ranked in the league in both homers and RBI with 32/105.
Bo Jackson was drafted 1st 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 Tigers that year, took Bo Jackson on a trip in a private plane that cost him his college eligibility. They also gave Bo Jackson an ultimatum to choose baseball or football. This prompted him to sign with the Kansas City Royals. 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 Bo Jackson in the 7th round with the 183rd overall pick. The Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis supported Bo Jackson and his baseball career and got Bo Jackson to sign a contract by offering him a salary that was comparable to a full-time starting running back but allowing Bo Jackson to only play part-time until the baseball season was done.
Joining the Los Angeles Raiders midway through the 1987 season, Bo Jackson rushed for 554 yards on 81 carries in just 7 games. Over the next 3 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 “2nd string” player behind Marcus Allen.
Bo 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 Bo Jackson and promised in a media event before the game to contain Bo Jackson. Bo Jackson also made a 91-yard run to the outside, untouched down the sideline. Bo Jackson continued sprinting until finally slowing down as he passed through the entrance to the field tunnel to the dressing rooms with teammates soon following. Bo Jackson scored 2 rushing touchdowns and 1 receiving touchdown in the game.
In his 4 seasons in the NFL, Bo Jackson rushed for 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average yards per carry of 5.4. Bo Jackson also caught 40 passes for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bo Jackson’s 221 yards on 30 November, 1987, just 29 days after his 1st NFL carry, is still a Monday Night Football record.
On 13 January, 1991, during a Los Angeles Raiders playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Bo 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 Bo 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 Jackson. 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 Bo 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. Bo 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 Jackson tried his luck in basketball. Being a natural athlete, Bo Jackson played briefly for a semi-pro basketball team in L.A. Bo Jackson quickly retired.
Bo Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and at his 1st at-bat, against the New York Yankees, he homered on his 1st swing. The next day Nike ran a full-page ad in USA Today; it simply read “Bo Knew.”
Bo Jackson 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, Bo Jackson had no stolen bases. For the 1994 season, he was signed as a free agent by the California Angels for 1 final season, where he hit another 13 home runs in 201 at bats, before retiring.
Bo Jackson became a popular figure for his athleticism in multiple sports through the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bo Jackson endorsed Nike and was involved in a popular ad campaign called “Bo Knows” which envisioned Bo 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 Bo Jackson by telling him “You don’t know diddley!”(In a later version of the spot, Bo Jackson is shown playing the guitar expertly, after which an impressed Diddley says, “Bo…you do know Diddley, don’t you?”)
Another clip, envisioning Bo 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. Bo Jackson also said the bits showing Bo playing hockey were actually filmed on a wooden floor, with Bo Jackson in stocking feet.) T shirts sold by Nike capitalizing on their successful ad campaign had a list of Bo Jackson’s sports – both real and imagined – with hockey crossed out.
In a later spot, Bo 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.”
Bo Jackson also poked fun at the ad campaign during a guest appearance on a 1st season episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In the scene, he played basketball with Clark, portrayed by Dean Cain. Bo Jackson clearly is the better athlete, until Clark uses his flying abilities to catch the ball. Bo Jackson replies, “Bo don’t know that!”
Bo Jackson 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 Jackson don’t know diddley”.
Bo 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. 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 2nd golden age of home video gaming. Bo 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 Jackson 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, Bo Jackson appeared in ProStars, an NBC Saturday morning cartoon. The show featured Bo Jackson, 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 honouring Bo Jackson. The set featured 3 colourways based on previously released Nike shoes: the “Bo Knows” Trainer I, Trainer 91, and Medicine Ball Trainer III.
In 1993, Bo Jackson was honoured 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.
Through the 1990s, Bo Jackson dabbled in acting, having made several television guest appearances 1st on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990 as well as Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Married with Children. Bo Jackson later appeared in small roles in the films The Chamber and Fakin’ Da Funk.
Bo Jackson served as the President of the HealthSouth Sports Medicine Council, part of Birmingham, Alabama based HealthSouth Corporation. Bo Jackson was also spokesman for HealthSouth’s “Go For It”: Roadshow.
Bo Jackson was given the honour of throwing out the ceremonial 1st pitch before Game 2 of the 2005 World Series.
In 2006, Bo Jackson appeared on the Spike TV sports reality show, Pros vs. Joes. In his 2nd 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 Jackson came together with John Cangelosi to form Bo Jackson Elite Sports Complex, an 88,000 square foot multi-sports dome facility in Lockport, Illinois. Bo Jackson is part-owner and CEO of the facility.
To this day he and his family live in Burr Ridge, Illinois.
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