Wednesday, November 28, 2007

bo jackson

rom behind the wheel of an obscenely muscled Dodge pickup, Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is reminiscing about the time he took down a 300-pound bear from point-blank range with a .45-caliber pistol. This was a decade ago in Alaska, a few years after Bo retired from organized sports and a few days before the Princess of Wales died in a car crash, and if you're wondering whether Bo was scared, hell no, Bo was not scared. Not even when that bear got so close Bo and his hunting companion could see the hairs bolt upright like pine needles on the back of its neck.

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comSpecial right now in the produce aisle: the greatest athlete of his generation.

"I wasn't scared," Bo says. "I wasn't scared because I knew I could outrun my white buddy. You've got to think about these things, man."

The way Bo tells it, he waited as long as he could, then he fired a slug into that bear's skull. The bear kept coming. His buddy yelled, "Shoot him again!" and Bo shot him again, firing another bullet directly into the bear's noggin. Bo 2, Bear 0. And then Bo skinned that bear on the spot and dragged the 70-pound hide the half-mile back to camp. Of course he did.

"Bring yo' little ass on," Bo is saying. He is no longer speaking of the bear, nor to the reporter cowering in the passenger's seat, nor to the photographer in the backseat who is endeavoring not to vomit, but to a small vehicle of foreign descent that has mustered the nerve to pass him on the right on a four-lane road in suburban Chicago. Bo lives not far from here, in a pristine house in a gated community, with a long driveway where he sometimes unpacks his bow and arrows, sits in a metal folding chair and fires at a deer-shaped target set under a tree in his yard.

At the moment, Bo is on his way to a store called DGY Motorsports, where he is going to pay the balance on a four-wheeled recreational vehicle he plans to use exclusively to plow the snow from his driveway. Ever since a snowplow broke the lights that surround his driveway, Bo prefers to plow his own snow. It is one of those little things that, as he approaches his 45th birthday Friday, give him a disproportionate amount of pleasure. The others include (not necessarily in order) golfing, cooking, hunting, motorcycle riding, and doting on his wife and three children: two sons who are already in college, and a daughter who will graduate from high school in the spring.

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comBo would rather talk about shooting bear than about running over the Bears.

It is a modest life, but in many ways, Bo Jackson is a modest man, one who was never particularly impressed by his own achievements. He is still intimidating, thick all over, his head shaved, his stare so pointed at times that it seems as if it could melt glass. But he is also shockingly normal, considering that two decades ago, he was the most famous athlete in America.

Yet there are times when Bo Jackson does not come across as the least bit modest. Some who are familiar with him say Bo himself has been known to embellish his past. In fact, his entire public persona was built upon a perception of omnipotence, upon a polyglottal athletic knowledge that became the basis for the most overused sports marketing catchphrase in history: Bo Knows. That even Bo Jackson has often referred to himself as "Bo Jackson," in the third person, as if his body were inhabited by some otherworldly force that took over when he donned a uniform, has led many to assume that both Bo Jackson and "Bo Jackson" were raving egomaniacs.

"That's what the marketing world [wanted] you to believe," Bo says. He speaks slowly and deliberately, a cadence he adopted to neutralize perhaps the most well-documented childhood stutter in athletic history, a stutter that actually becomes more prominent in one-on-one situations than when he is speaking to groups.

Bo is perceptive enough to see through his own mythology; the true reason he referred to himself in the third person, according to those who knew him as a young man, is that his stutter made it difficult for him to say "I." And yet it also became a convenient device. That "Bo Jackson" was manufactured for public consumption, and a young man in his mid-20s who grew up in rural Alabama needed some way to separate himself from his own celebrity. (Soon, other athletes would emulate his example.) That "Bo Jackson" vanishes when he is at home, whether he's with his wife (the only human in the world who refers to him as "Vince") and his children (who refer to him as "Dad") and his childhood friends back in Bessemer, Ala. (who, Bo jokes, often refer to him as "a--hole"). Back home, many used to mock him for his stutter until Bo -- who grew up with an iron-fisted mother and an absentee father -- discovered all he needed to erase that dark place he came from was to find some way to run hard and fast.

These days, the real-life Bo Jackson, the Bo Jackson who cooks spaghetti and washes his own dishes and watches reality TV, doesn't even see a need to run around the block anymore. Why bother when a man can play golf instead? Why bother when there is nothing left to prove to anyone?

"But I also know, if I was healthy, with good hips right now, I'd be the fastest 45-year-old in the country, or in the world," Bo says. "That much I know. That much ... I know."

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comIn retirement, Bo knows his way around the kitchen. Imagine what Nike could do with that.

Of course, we will never know, and this is where every discussion of Bo Jackson most often begins and ends. All we have are stories that, with two decades of wear, have already begun to feel like tall tales: of Bo scaling an outfield wall in pursuit of a fly ball until he is hovering sideways, seven feet off the ground; of Bo leaving a dent in the chest of an all-pro safety named Mike Harden; of Bo leading off the 1989 Major League Baseball All-Star Game with a home run, and then making the Pro Bowl after the 1990 NFL season.

Lonnie Major/Getty ImagesAdd Bo's strength to his intensity and you end up with a few snapped bats.

And those are just the ones we actually have on videotape.

"We had an outdoor party at a lake after we won the county championship," says Terry Brasseale, Bo's baseball coach at McAdory High School. "Bo's just out there in water up to his waist. All of a sudden, he jumps up, does a backflip out of the water, and lands on his feet. I said to my girlfriend, 'Did you see that?' "

For those of us who came of age in the 1980s, watching Bo take on both professional baseball and professional football at the same time, the myth and the man long ago became tangled. Bo hits a 600-foot home run! Bo tramples Ronnie Lott! Bo snaps a Louisville Slugger over his knee! Bo snaps a Louisville Slugger over his head! Bo hits a batting-practice home run left-handed! Bo parts a major body of water! Bo cures lymphoma!

There have always been stories like this, passed on in a telephone game from one generation to the next -- about Babe Ruth, about Josh Gibson, about Red Grange, about Marion Motley and Jim Brown and Mickey Mantle -- and they seemed apocryphal, almost silly, in their exaggeration. The difference, of course, was that we actually saw Bo part the Red Sea on our televisions. We saw it with our own eyes; even those moments that weren't televised were documented and sometimes photographed. In 1986, in a minor-league ballpark in Charlotte, N.C., a young journalist named Joe Posnanski watched Jackson hit his first professional home run, and then realized Jackson had broken his bat. "Bo's destiny," Posnanski would write in The Kansas City Star, more than 20 years later, "was to become a comic-book hero."

And so it was: Within the span of a decade, his superpowers bloomed and wilted. He won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn, chose to play baseball instead of football, then decided he would play both football and baseball, even as every sports columnist in the country and most opposing players (and some of his own teammates) declared him an egomaniac with a death wish. He was just beginning to blossom as a baseball player, and the scouts called him the greatest raw prospect since Mantle and Mays, an almost unfathomable combination of speed and power and arm strength; although he struck out in prolific numbers, he also hit some colossal home runs and made some extraordinary plays in the outfield.

AP Photo/Dick DowneyIn one of the most dominating performances in "Monday Night Football" history, Bo solidified his myth in Seattle.

His myth fully crystallized on a Monday night, on the last day of November 1987, when Bo was a rookie running back for the Los Angeles Raiders, a two-sport athlete sharing time in the backfield with a Hall of Famer named Marcus Allen. Bo took a handoff and Bo parted the entire Seattle defense and then Bo -- How does one even describe this method of propulsion? Glided? Propelled? Teleported? -- 91 yards down the sideline, and then Bo kept on running until he disappeared into a tunnel in the bowels of Seattle's Kingdome. The sound of Bo running past him, former Seahawks receiver Steve Largent said, was like nothing he had ever heard before.

For a moment, Bo was gone, out of the picture entirely, prompting ABC analyst Dan Dierdorf to proclaim to a TV audience that Bo "might not stop until Tacoma." When Bo emerged from that tunnel, and when he lowered his shoulder and toppled a cocky young linebacker named Brian Bosworth on a short touchdown run later that evening, and finished the night with 221 yards, nothing was ever the same. Bo was on his way to becoming an icon, both physically and commercially, a man who could do anything he wanted on any field of play, a man who made a fortune for embodying that catchphrase concocted by a Nike-contracted copywriter in Portland: Bo Knows.

With those two words, Bo Jackson helped usher sports into the modern age.


It was a silly idea in the first place, this two-word mantra, proper noun followed by verb, and like most silly ideas, it came to Jim Riswold in the middle of the night. But then, this was a silly business, and it was Riswold's sense of irony that had led him here in the first place. Already, in 1986, working out of a rambunctious and offbeat Portland advertising firm called Wieden + Kennedy, working for a burgeoning empire known as Nike, Riswold had brought together Michael Jordan and Spike Lee for a shoe campaign that, according to author David Halberstam, created "a figure who had the power and force and charisma of a major movie star."

NikeThe "Bo Knows" commercial campaign turned a two-sport athlete into an icon.

Jordan was already on his way to becoming an icon in 1987 when Bo Jackson plowed over Brian Bosworth on that Monday night in Seattle. At the same time, Nike was looking to market its new shoe, called a cross-trainer; the company's first choice, Riswold says, was Howie Long. Riswold suggested there was a far better candidate on the same Raiders roster.

"I'm always surprised by how big something as inconsequential as an advertisement can become," Riswold says. "People like their sports heroes, and Bo was something new. A new shiny toy. That was the best example of how big these things can become."

The year before, in 1986, Bo had been picked first in the NFL draft by Tampa Bay. For reasons that are still not entirely clear -- a perception of racism within the Buccaneers organization, a sense of loyalty to Kansas City scout Ken Gonzales, Bo's utter abhorrence for the conventions of football practice, Bo's determination to accomplish what others said he couldn't -- he chose to sign with the Royals instead. Already, he was a maverick, and once he came back to football in 1987, on his own terms, Riswold and his colleagues began toying with Bo's image. Bo willingly played along. This was the '80s, after all, a decade suffused with vanity and objectivism, and this was a nation presided over by Ronald Reagan, a man of relentless optimism, damn the long-term consequences. The country was "in a mood for the resurrection of old myths," historian Haynes Johnson once wrote. So why not, in keeping with the times, shape Bo as a modern-day Paul Bunyan?

Beau Brummell. Bo Derek. Bo Schembechler. Bo Diddley. What an unusual name Bo has, Riswold thought, and he began brainstorming ideas with Nike executives until that pronoun-verb combination came to him in his sleep that night.

"His career was pretty short, and it was injury-plagued, but by the time all those things changed, he was a marketing star," sports marketing executive Nova Lanktree says. "People were just very fond of him. He overcame his stuttering problem. Everything about his profile was suited to [his becoming a cultural phenomenon]."

That first iconic television ad, culminating with Bo playing a horrific guitar riff and Diddley delivering the line, "Bo, you don't know Diddley," aired during the All-Star Game in 1989, the game that Jackson led off with a home run (he was later named MVP). Riswold was watching in a bar in Portland, with several Nike colleagues. When the spot came on, the entire bar fell silent.

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comWith a healthy hip, Bo is confident he'd have the fastest 45-year-old legs in the country.

"I think God is a Nike fan," Riswold muttered.

It was absurd what happened next, the way the catchphrase caught fire, the way Bo's profile grew and mutated, until, for a short period, he was the most culturally recognizable athlete in the world, above even Jordan himself. The ads grew more self-referential as Bo got bigger and bigger. The '80s ended, and the '90s commenced, and Bo injured his hip, but Nike was invested in Bo by then, and America was invested in Bo as the manifestation of its outsized dreams. Riswold began writing subversive ads that pierced the myth of Bo, and the myth of Nike (these days, Riswold says, Nike would never permit such self-effacement), not to mention the commercialism and the hype and the excess of the nation itself. In one of the last great ads, from the summer of 1991, Bo cuts off a song-and-dance routine, declaring, "I'm an athlete, not an actor." Then, in the midst of a workout, as the music cues once more, Bo breaks through the fourth wall, crying out to the Nike logo, "You know I don't have time for this," before George Foreman, huckster and infomercial pitchman, takes his place.

By then, of course, it was too late. The monster Riswold had helped to create -- sports as cult of personality -- was slouching out of its cage, to be reborn over and over again.

"All the athletes today grew up with these commercials, and they want them," Riswold says. "But the world is more cynical, and with good reason. It has been done before. And the Michaels and Bos of the world don't come around that often."

The woman in the produce aisle would like to know if Bo is doing autographs this afternoon. Normally, Bo figures, the woman wouldn't have bothered to ask -- he's almost certain he has seen her in here before, and he probably has since he comes to this same supermarket at least once a week, where today his list includes such sundries as pasta and sausage and bananas and Diet Pepsi. But since Bo is being trailed by a reporter and a photographer, since his private sphere is already being intruded upon anyway, he figures he will make an exception.

AP Photo/G. Paul BurnettAfter winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy, Bo reversed field and decided to pursue a pro baseball career.

Bo has never quite accepted the phenomenon of celebrity. His private time is his private time, and he does not always take kindly to those who intrude. Approach him at a restaurant while he is eating dinner with his family, and Bo might rebuff you with prejudice. He has worked hard to achieve normalcy. He has lived in the same house for 16 years, ever since he signed with the White Sox after a hip injury derailed his football career in a 1991 playoff game against Cincinnati, and the neighbors have gotten accustomed to him, even if most of them, northerners through and through, don't comprehend his hunting fetish. The people in the community know his family; unlike Michael Jordan, Bo's old colleague at Nike, whose star ascended long after Bo's commercial potential was tapped, he is not compelled to live a life apart from the remainder of society. This extended even to his family. Bo's daughter, Morgan, was a high school track phenomenon until she decided to quit to focus on academics (and cheerleading) her senior year. Neither of his sons played college sports. His wife, Linda, is a counseling psychologist at a local hospital, the name of which will not be revealed here, in part, Bo says, because some of her colleagues do not know she is Bo Jackson's spouse.

There are many people, strangers and idolaters, who have no idea Bo Jackson lives in this part of the country. Part of him would prefer to keep it that way. He does not hide -- if you want to find Bo, you can find Bo, and he makes occasional public appearances, such as last weekend at the Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn -- but he does not keep himself on display, either. He says he has cut off associates who have given out his cell-phone number without permission. He was perfectly willing to allow a photographer into his house, but refused to allow the photographer to shoot any photos of his family, or even to shoot photos of the photos of his family. His wife, Bo says, has not granted an interview for as long as he can remember. He was invited at one point to be on "Dancing With the Stars," he says, but he declined.

Bo is part owner of a food company called N'Genuity, which provides food -- mostly meat, all products Bo has approved personally, some of which bear his name, such as the Bo Burger -- to the military and to casinos, and has provided him with a strong post-retirement income. Recently, he partnered with another former baseball player, John Cangelosi, to break ground for a sports dome that will provide a place for young ballplayers to practice during Chicago's frigid winters, and he has a financial interest in a local bank, as well.

"People around here, they know me," Bo says. "People that live here see me all the time. I'm quiet. I lay low. I think a lot of people get caught up in this celebrity world to where they have to be treated in a certain way, spoken to in a certain way, and they have to carry themselves in a certain way. And if they don't get their way, their world turns upside down. With me, I'll stop and help somebody change a car tire."

And then Bo makes one of several statements that might be a joke. Or, perhaps, a warning.

"If you're my enemy," he says, "and you're by the side of the road with a flat tire, and it's 20 below zero, I'm going to stop and throw a gallon of water on you and keep going."

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comBo knows bows -- a pastime that probably keeps him from being the most approachable guy in Illinois.

Bo gets back home to Alabama a few times every year, but he does not have any great yearning to go back there for good, or to retire down South. For every fond memory he has of Bessemer, there is a pain that lingers, because Bo Jackson grew up fatherless. His dad, A.D. Adams, lived across town, and used to work in the steel mills, but Adams had a new wife and a new family, and rarely made an appearance except to leave a few dollars on the table. Bo inherited his father's enormous frame and his greatest burden (his stutter), and he combatted his own insecurities by utilizing that musculature he'd been given, by lashing out at anyone who stood in his way. He was a bully of the purest sort, "the John Gotti of my neighborhood," he says, a character straight out of Mark Twain. He once clubbed one of his cousins -- a female cousin -- with a baseball bat. Although his mother, Florence Bond, who worked as a housekeeper at a local Ramada Inn, tried every trick she knew to tame him, whipping him with switches and extension cords, Bo would not be tamed.

John McDonough/Icon SMIBo was a comic superhero on real-life playing fields.

Bo -- his nickname is a truncation of the term, "Bo'Hog," for a wild boar -- gained a reputation for throwing rocks with uncanny accuracy, mostly at other human beings. He pummeled his classmates on a regular basis. When he was a teenager, in the summer of 1976, he and his friends began throwing rocks at pigs on their way to a local swimming hole, killing several of them. They got caught in the act by a farmer who had hired the local barber to keep watch, and Florence Bond told the barber who caught them that she was ready to send her son to reform school.

The barber asked Bo for the names of his co-conspirators. The way Bo tells it in his autobiography, "Bo Knows Bo," he suddenly saw where his life was headed, and he spilled his guts. In truth, the transformation was probably more gradual, but it seems to have begun here. He worked all summer mowing lawns to pay back the money, and then, scared straight, he began playing organized sports, endeavoring to find his niche. In baseball, he volunteered to be a catcher. He wrestled at heavyweight ("slippery as a wet catfish," one of his coaches called him), and he ran track. Later, though his mom didn't want him playing football, Bo joined the football team. When she found out he'd done it anyway, she locked him out of the house, and left him out there all night long; Bo curled up in a parked car and went to sleep.

Somewhere, possibly lost by Bo's co-author on "Bo Knows Bo," the late Dick Schaap, there is a videotape of Bo's greatest hits, a videotape that includes a sequence of Bo playing lead blocker for McAdory's other halfback: He knocks down a defensive lineman, knocks down a linebacker, waves for his teammate to follow him, knocks down a cornerback, and escorts his teammate into the end zone.

All that was a long time ago, and most of the people of Bessemer remember Bo fondly, as people often do when one of their own crosses the threshold and becomes a celebrity. Some of them have even been known to embellish stories about Bo, stories that don't even need embellishing. Given time, of course, even with the video evidence, it seems likely it will become increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction, and those who remember a healthy Bo will remember the equivalent of his Nintendo Tecmo Super Bowl replicant, the most potent video-game running back in history, utterly unstoppable to the point of being ridiculous.

Sometimes Brasseale tells the story of when Bo hit two towering homers in his first two at-bats in the county championship game, and then in his third at-bat, with the left fielder backed up to the fence, he hit a high fly ball to shallow left. If he hustles, Brasseale thought, he could get a double out of this. Soon enough, the ball dropped, and Bo was rounding third.

He scored standing up.

"I tell that to other coaches," Brasseale says, "and they say there ain't no way."

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comIf you see this pickup on the roadway, you'd better get out of the way before you get the Bosworth treatment.

A few years ago, Bo made up with his father, and goes to visit him often now that A.D. is old and in ill health. But there is something holding Bo back from a complete reconciliation with his past. Whenever his high school asks him for a donation, Bo declines. All in good time, he says.

"Most of the guys I hung out with are still there," Bo says. "I call them institutionalized country. That's all they know. I'm not saying I'm better than I am, but it's not for me."

It is not easy to let go of everything. Bo's entire athletic career was based upon channeling that seething childhood anger into a purpose; his high school teammates, he wrote in "Bo Knows Bo," didn't make it in college athletics because "they had better lives at home than I did. It was as simple as that." He played games because this was his gift, because he liked to run -- he once called himself "half-human, half-deer" -- but he also hated to work at it. Imagine if Bo had actually worked at it. Imagine if he had actually cared about something like making the Hall of Fame, in either sport. "Worst practice player I've seen in my life," Brasseale says. "He just got bored real easily."

Mostly, Bo strived to fashion an existence for himself, and for his own family, out of his gift. He used sports, he says, to become a businessman, which might be a little bit of Bo rationalizing the sudden end to his career. But there is truth to it, as well. Bo's primary goal as an adult was to exist in direct opposition to his own father. It is nothing Bo hasn't thought out before; his wife is a psychologist, after all.

That anger remains, buried beneath the surface. Mostly, he takes it out on the deer he kills and butchers, on the golf balls he hacks at day after day. Brasseale says Bo told him he would like to make a run at the senior tour when he turns 50. "You doubt me?" Bo said, when Brasseale laughed.

You want to see that anger bubble and boil? Go up to Bo and put your arm around him. He hates this -- strangers touching him, strangers who want to arm-wrestle, strangers who think they know him because they saw an advertisement 20 years ago. At one point, to demonstrate, he took my wrist in his hand and twisted, ever so gently.

It was enough.

"You've really got to get under my skin to get me to snap," he says. "But if I snap, God help you."

Ross Dettman for ESPN.comFor Bo, contentment is spending an afternoon in the hole, working on arrows adorned in Auburn colors.

These days, Bo Jackson spends a great deal of his idle time in a room in his basement he calls "the hole." It is about 6 feet wide and 10 feet long, and it is adorned with hunting gear and pieces and parts, much of it unopened and hanging on hooks. In that way, it looks like a scaled-down version of the storeroom at the Bass Pro Shop where Bo spends much of his idle time, shopping for arrowheads and other equipment. Bo approaches his arrows the way an artist approaches a composition: He paints them and pieces them together with meticulous precision, with tiny brushes and a jeweler's touch. An old television rests on a work table, and Bo can put his feet up and watch the Golf Channel or Animal Planet (he says he only loosely follows the sports he once played), and he can work on his secret project, which is not really a secret project at all, but simply involves adding lacquer to his most recent cache of arrows.

Aggie Skirball/WireImage.comThe story of Bo Jackson will always be a tale of "what might've been."

But Bo has a fanciful sense of humor, and so he tells me he's building a time machine down here, because he would like to go back and win the lottery jackpot, ignoring the fact he has great gobs of cash on hand, and ignoring the obvious conclusion that would leap into most people's minds -- the fact that if he built a time machine, he could go back to Jan. 13, 1991, to that divisional playoff game against the Bengals, when Bo took a pitch and ran right and then, instead of cutting out of bounds, cut back one last time before he was taken down from behind by a linebacker named Kevin Walker, fighting like hell all the way. In the midst of the push and pull, Bo's hip was yanked out of its socket. Bo's doctors told him if it were anyone else, his leg would have snapped like a dry twig -- the irony being that a broken leg would have healed within months. Even after surgery, the hip would never be the same (though it is perfectly functional today, since Bo no longer runs).

"... the gods of sports decided to punish Bo because he came too close to them, had reached the brink of being a god himself," Schaap speculated in a postscript to "Bo Knows Bo."

Bo has always said, and maintains today, he didn't realize the severity of his injury at the time. Perhaps he just assumed, with the body he'd been given, that no mortal could rend it. But there is something horrible and wrenching in Bo's expression in the aftermath of that game, captured in a series of photos of Bo sitting on the bench afterward with his two young sons -- photos he keeps, unframed, on the floor behind a filing cabinet in his office, near an autographed picture of Chuck Yeager, the uber-test pilot who is Bo's only hero. Bo's expression in the pictures reflects an emotion he is either unwilling or unable to recognize.

"Sports has never been the main focus in my life," Bo insists, staring at those photos. "Dreams of the Hall of Fame never entered my mind when I was playing. The thoughts I had in my mind were of being a businessman. When I did those Nike commercials, I was broadening my horizon, so when the day came, I could get my foot in a lot of doors that you probably couldn't."

Maybe Bo could have avoided this hit, and maybe he could have avoided all of these What if? questions, if he'd listened to the skeptics and made up his mind and chosen one path or the other. As the myth grew, as Nike depended upon Bo to be ambidextrous, that choice came with more weight; still, Jackson says he had all but decided that 1991 would be his last season playing football. By then, he was an athlete and an actor -- he would later play a prison guard in "The Chamber," a surprisingly strong performance in an otherwise mediocre John Grisham adaptation (he caught some of it on cable this morning, in fact).

Al Messerschmidt/WireImage.comAfter injurying his hip in his final NFL game, Bo enjoyed a sideline moment with his two sons.

Safe within his kitchen, Bo has just prepared lunch for his guests, and now he is washing the dishes. He does them by hand. He didn't have a dishwasher when he was a kid; he doesn't see the need for it now. He lives on his own terms: He has been obsessed with flying since watching the planes take off and land from the community airport near his home in Bessemer. The bird feeder in his backyard is almost always filled to the top, so the birds will never think Bo has abandoned them.

"I know how to feed guys like you with a long-handled spoon," Bo says, before driving me back to my hotel. "I never let you get too close. I tell you what I want you to know, and I tell you what you want to hear."

In the obscenely muscled pickup, with the hunting equipment and a nauseated photographer squeezed into the backseat, Bo flips a wave at the guard, passes through the gates and then pokes his nose out into the world. He has been telling stories about his past for several hours now, and although he doesn't seem to mind -- he appears to relish the way he has been able to condense his experiences into parables -- he ran away from that Bo Jackson long ago, ran unwittingly out of a sour childhood and into a peculiar life as a demigod, as a myth, as the last comic-book hero we will ever see. And then he didn't stop running until he found himself a place behind those gates.

When his wife calls, Bo tells her he'll be home soon enough. He's not staying out here any longer than he has to.

Michael Weinreb's book "Game of Kings: A Year Among the Oddballs and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team" will be released in paperback next month by Gotham Books. He is currently working on a book about sports in the 1980s. He can be reached at Bo Jackson
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Bo Jackson
Running back Jersey #(s):
Born: November 30, 1962 (1962-11-30) (age 44)
Career Information
Year(s): 1987-1990
NFL Draft: 1986 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
College: Auburn University
Professional Teams
Los Angeles Raiders (1987-1990)

Career Stats
Rushing Yards 2,782
Average 5.4
Touchdowns 16
Stats at
Career Highlights and Awards
Pro Bowl (x1)
Heisman Trophy (x1)

College Hall of Fame
Bo Jackson

Outfielder, Designated hitter

Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 2, 1986
for the Kansas City Royals
Final game
August 10, 1994
for the California Angels
Career statistics
Batting average .250
Hits 598
Home Runs 141
Kansas City Royals (1986-1990)
Chicago White Sox (1991,1993)
California Angels (1994)

Career highlights and awards
All-Star Game MVP (x1)

Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson (born November 30, 1962 in Bessemer, Alabama) is an 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.

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]

1 Early life
2 College (1982�1985)
2.1 College baseball
2.2 College football
2.3 College track and field
3 Professional career
3.1 Baseball
3.1.1 Notable achievements
3.2 Football
4 Injury and comeback
5 Popularity
5.1 "Bo Knows... "
5.2 ProStars
6 Life after sports
7 Trivia
9 See also
10 References
11 External links
11.1 Information
11.2 Statistics

[edit] Early life
Jackson, the eighth of ten children, was named after Vince Edwards, his mother's favorite actor. His family described him as a "wild boar", which was eventually shortened to "Bo".[1]

Jackson attended McAdory High School, where he rushed for 1,175 yards as a running back in his senior-year football season. That year, Jackson also hit twenty home runs in twenty-five games for his school's baseball team.[1]

[edit] College (1982�1985)
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.[2] 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.

[edit] College baseball
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.

[edit] College football
During his time playing for the Auburn Tigers football team, he ran for 4,303 career yards,[2] which was the fourth best performance in SEC history behind 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.

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 with the Sugar Bowl, where Jackson was named Most Valuable Player. In 1984, Jackson's junior year, he earned Most Valuable Player honors at Liberty Bowl.[3]

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.[2]

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.

[edit] College track and field
Jackson qualified for the 60-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.

[edit] Professional career

[edit] Baseball
After recording an NFL record 4.18 40-yard dash, 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. He also beat out an infield hit that resulted in the game-winning RBI. In addition to this, he had a stolen base, making him one of only 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). 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. After a poor at bat he was known to snap the bat over his knee, or with his helmet on, over his head. 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. He has since recovered the ball and has it engraved in her 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 and RBI with 32/105.

[edit] Notable achievements
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)

[edit] Football
Jackson was drafted first overall in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Jackson wanted to be a professional baseball player, so he rejected the Buccaneers' five-year offer. Since he did not sign with a team by the 1987 draft, the rights to him were forfeited by Tampa Bay and his name was thrown back into the draft. The Oakland Raiders selected Jackson in the 7th round with the 183rd overall pick.[4] 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 Raiders legend 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 star 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.

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.

[edit] Injury and comeback
During a Raiders playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1990, 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 "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. Bo quickly retired.

Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and incredibly at 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; but while his power remained, he no longer possessed his blazing speed. During his time with the White Sox, Jackson 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.

[edit] Popularity

[edit] "Bo Knows... "
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!"[5] (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 mutiple 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".

[edit] ProStars
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.

[edit] 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 the promise he made to his mother.[2]

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.

Jackson was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game Two of the 2005 World Series.

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. Jackson is also a director of the new Burr Ridge Bank & Trust, opening in April 2008.

[edit] Trivia
Trivia sections are discouraged under Wikipedia guidelines.
The article could be improved by integrating relevant items and removing inappropriate ones.

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.
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 still 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 and later he again entered the draft in 1987 and was drafted by the Raiders in the seventh round.
Jackson is part of the NFL Legends team in NFL Street 2. Also in the game is a young player named Vincent Jackson who is a character in Own the City Mode, 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. He also did a version of "Bo Knows" using the Sesame Street characters, for example, Big Bird vouching for Bo knowing letters, the Count for Bo knowing counting, Elmo for Bo knowing empty and full, and so on.
Bo is one of only two running backs in the history of the NFL with two rushes from scrimmage of over 90 yards, despite his short career.
Bo's most famous baseball card is his 1990 Score card picturing him (in black and white) wearing shoulder pads and holding a baseball bat behind him on his shoulders. This card sold for $10 or more by itself during his peak popularity[citation needed], but now sells for much less.
Bo's number 34 is still issued as a number by the Oakland Raiders, it is currently worn by LaMont Jordan.
Jackson batted only once left handed, hitting a 450+ foot home run in batting practice from a borrowed bat.

[edit] Quotes
"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

[edit] See also


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