Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson (born November 30, 1962) is a retired American baseball and football player. He is the only athlete to be named an All-Star in two major American sports. He was named the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN.
While at Auburn University, Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Trophy, 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, that starred Jackson alongside Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician Bo Diddley, promoting a cross-training athletic shoe named for Jackson.
After a 1991 hip injury on the field ended his football career, he focused on baseball, and expanded into other pursuits, including the completion of his Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Child Development at Auburn, and appearing in small parts as an actor, in TV shows such as Married… with Children, and films such as The Chamber.
1 Early life
2 College (1982–1985)
2.1 College baseball
2.2 College football
2.3 Historic moments
2.4 College track and field
2.4.1 Personal bests
3 Professional sports career
3.1.1 Kansas City Royals
3.1.2 Chicago White Sox and California Angels
3.1.3 Notable achievements
3.1.4 MLB statistics
3.2.1 NFL statistics
4 Injury and comeback
5.1 “Bo Knows…”
5.2 Video games
6.1 Pre-game traditions
7 Life after sports
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Jackson, the eighth of ten children, was born and raised in Bessemer, Alabama, and was named after Vince Edwards, his mother’s favorite actor. His family described him as a “wild boar hog,” as he would constantly get into trouble. The nickname was eventually shortened to “Bo.”
Jackson attended McAdory High School in McCalla, where he rushed for 1175 yards as a running back as a high school senior. Jackson hit twenty home runs in twenty-five games for McAdory’s baseball team during his senior season. He was a two-time state champion in the decathlon. In 1982, Bo set state school records for indoor high-jump (6’9″) and triple-jump (48’8”).
In June 1995, Jackson was selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1982 Major League Baseball Draft, but he instead chose to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship. 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. He shared the backfield with quarterback Randy Campbell, Lionel “Little Train” James and Tommie Agee.
Jackson batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs in 1985. In a 1985 baseball game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Foley Field in Athens, Georgia, Jackson led Auburn to victory with a 4-for-5 performance, with three home runs and a double. Jackson missed the 1984 season after separating his hip during football season.
During his time playing for the Auburn Tigers football team, he ran for 4,303 career yards, which was the fourth best performance in SEC history. Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards (6.0 m) 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 on an option pitch. Auburn went on to win the game 33–26 as Jackson rushed 14 times for 64 yards and 2 TDs.
In 1983, as a sophomore, Jackson rushed for 1,213 yards (1,109 m) on 158 carries, for an average of 7 yards per carry, which was the 2nd best single-season average in SEC history (minimum 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 (minimum 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 the Liberty Bowl.
In 1985, Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards which was the second best single-season performance in SEC history. 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.
Jackson finished his career at Auburn with 4,575 all-purpose yards and 45 total touchdowns, 43 rushing and 2 receiving, with a 6.6 yards per carry average. 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 are 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan’s number 7, and the number 88 of Sullivan’s teammate and favorite receiver, Terry Beasley. In 2007, Jackson was ranked #8 on ESPN’s Top 25 Players In College Football History list.
On November 27, 1982, Bo Jackson and the Auburn Tigers found themselves embattled with their heated in-state rival, Alabama (7-3), in the Iron Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. Auburn held a 14-13 halftime lead when Alabama’s RB Paul Ott Carruth scored on an 8-yard TD run—and then the Crimson Tide added a field goal to make it a 22-14 Alabama lead going into the 4th quarter. Auburn responded as Al Del Greco made a 23-yard FG to make it a 22-17 score in the 4th quarter. From Auburn’s own 34-yard line, Bo Jackson and company began a long drive as he converted on a 4th-and-1 at the Alabama 42. Jackson, who ran 17 times for 114 yards during this Iron Bowl, continued marching his team downfield as he caught an 8-yard pass from QB Randy Campbell down to the Alabama 1-yard line. On fourth down with 2:26 left in the game, Jackson completed the drive by going over the top for a 1-yard TD run as Auburn (finished 9-3 in ’82) pulled off a 23-22 victory over Alabama and its legendary coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant.
College track and field
Jackson qualified for the NCAA nationals in the 100-meter dash in his freshman and sophomore years. He considered a career in track and field, 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. Going into the 1986 NFL Draft, Jackson ran a 4.12 40-yard dash time. This dash was officially hand timed because the NFL Combine didn’t start electronically timing athletes until 1990.
Kansas City Royals
Jackson was selected with the first overall pick of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he opted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals, the defending World Series champions, who had drafted him in the fourth round in the 1986 amateur draft. He spent 53 games with the Memphis Chicks, the Royals’ Class AA minor league affiliate, and was called up to the majors in September 1986. He made the Royals’ roster in 1987 and hit 22 home runs, with 53 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as an outfielder.
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. In the top of the first inning, he caught Pedro Guerrero’s 2-out line drive to left-center field to save two runs. Then he led off the bottom of the first—his first All-Star plate appearance—with a monstrous 448-foot (137 m) 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. 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.
Jackson’s 171 strikeouts in 1989 tied him for tenth most strikeouts in a season for a right hand batter since 1893.
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 several). 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.
Unwilling to pay his $2.375 million salary in 1991 to rehabilitate his football injury, the Royals released Jackson on March 18, 1991.
Chicago White Sox and California Angels
Before Jackson finished his career in California he played two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, appearing in 23 games in 1991 and 85 games in 1993. 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 encased in acrylic and bolted to the dresser in her room, according to an interview on ESPN.
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 1989, Bo ranked fourth in the league in both home runs, with 32, and RBI, with 105.
AL All-Star (1989)
1989 All-Star Game MVP
1993 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1987–1990)
30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1989)
100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1989)
Jackson was drafted first overall in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Controversy abounded before then that resulted in Jackson never playing for the team.
In addition to giving Jackson an ultimatum to pick between sports, Buccaneers management took Jackson on owner Hugh Culverhouse’s private jet to visit with the team during his senior baseball season. Jackson was told by the Buccaneers that the trip, which could potentially have cost Jackson his remaining collegiate eligibility, had been cleared by the NCAA. Jackson was later told by his baseball coach at Auburn that the trip, in fact, was considered to be a violation of NCAA rules and that he was immediately ruled ineligible to play the remainder of the baseball season. An upset Jackson told Culverhouse that he would never play for the Buccaneers and that he could draft him if he wanted to, but he would not sign if he was drafted. It was said that Jackson, who was having what he called his best year playing baseball in school, made the Buccaneers nervous and that by getting him somehow ruled ineligible to play baseball, he would be forced to focus on football.
Jackson held true to his threat not to sign, and the Buccaneers forfeited his rights before 1987 draft. Jackson was in spring training with the Royals when someone informed him that he had a chance to play football again. Inquiring who it was, Jackson found out that he was taken in the seventh round of the draft with the 183rd pick by the Los Angeles Raiders. Initially Jackson had said he would continue to focus on baseball and would not sign, but his interest was piqued. Raiders owner Al Davis was a fan of Jackson and was receptive the idea of Jackson playing both baseball and football. Thus, a contract was negotiated where Jackson would be permitted to play the entire baseball season with the Royals and would report to the Raiders once the season was finished. In addition to this, Davis gave Jackson a salary that was in line with what a top-flight starter at halfback would make.
Jackson joined the Raiders in time for their Week 7 matchup against the New England Patriots, where he rushed for a total of 37 yards on eight carries. Jackson shared the backfield with Marcus Allen, himself an All-Pro and former Heisman Trophy contender, but eventually supplanted him as the featured running back despite being listed as the team’s fullback. Perhaps his most notable performance in his rookie season came on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11. Prior to the game Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth insulted Jackson and promised in a media event before the game to contain Jackson. Jackson responded by running over Bosworth on his way to a touchdown near the goal line. He also made a 91 yard run in the 2nd quarter, to the outside, untouched down the sideline. Jackson was running so fast that his momentum carried him into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms and his teammates had to retrieve him. Jackson rushed for 221 yards that night and two touchdowns. He added a third with a reception.
In his rookie season, Jackson rushed for a total of 554 yards on only 81 carries for a 6.8 yards per carry average. He played in seven games, starting five, and scored a total of six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving). The next year, Jackson played in ten of the Raiders’ sixteen games with nine starts, recording a total of 580 yards and three touchdowns.
Jackson’s 1989 season was his best in the league. In eleven games, with nine starts, Jackson rushed for a total of 950 yards with a 5.5 yards per carry average and four touchdowns. In his abbreviated 1990 campaign, Jackson rushed for 698 yards and was selected to the only Pro Bowl of his career.
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 comeback
During the divisional round of the 1990 NFL playoffs in January 1991, Jackson was tackled by Kevin Walker of the Cincinnati Bengals, causing a serious hip injury that ended Jackson’s 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. Amazingly, Jackson was able to return to baseball toward the end of the 1991 season as a member of the White Sox after the Royals had released him. 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 baseball, Jackson tried his luck in basketball; he played briefly for a semi-pro team in Los Angeles before quietly retiring to focus on baseball.
Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and in his first at-bat, against the New York Yankees, he hit a home run with 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, helping lead the White Sox to the American League West Division crown. Jackson was honored with the Tony Conigliaro Award.
Yet while his power remained, he no longer possessed his blazing speed. During his time with the White Sox, Jackson had no stolen bases, although 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.
Main article: 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!” (In a later version of the spot, Jackson is shown playing the guitar expertly, after which an impressed Diddley says, “Bo…you do know Diddley, don’t you?”)
Called “the greatest athlete in video game history”, Jackson’s digital counterpart was nicknamed by fans as “Tecmo Bo” since being featured in the 1989 video game Tecmo Super Bowl for the Nintendo Entertainment System. He 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. Released around the same time was Bo Jackson Baseball for the NES system and IBM compatible computers.
Bo Jackson can be unlocked as a player in ESPN NFL Football.
Bo Jackson had also made an appearance in the 2004 video game NFL Street 2.
Jackson appeared in ProStars, an NBC Saturday morning cartoon show which also featured Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan fighting crime and helping children, although neither he, Gretzky, nor Jordan voiced their respective characters.
In 2007, Nike released a set of Nike Dunk shoes honoring Bo Jackson. The set featured three color-ways based on previously released Nike shoes: the “Bo Knows” Trainer I, Trainer 91 and Medicine Ball Trainer III.
In 2011, The TecmoBowl.org honored Bo Jackson with a limited edition shirt.
Before Royals games, Jackson used to shoot at a target with a bow and arrow while in the Royals clubhouse.
Life after sports
Jackson signing autographs for American soldiers in September 2007.
In 1995, Jackson completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Child Development at Auburn to fulfill the promise he made to his mother. Through the 1990s, Jackson dabbled in acting, having made several television guest appearances first on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990 as well as Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Married… with Children. He later appeared in small roles in the films The Chamber, The Pandora Project 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 is married to wife Linda, a clinical psychologist, and has three children – sons Garrett, Nicholas, and daughter Morgan.
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 Astros 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 the Bo Jackson Elite Sports Complex, an 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) multi-sports dome facility in Lockport, Illinois. He is part-owner and CEO of the facility. He has been successful with other investments, including a food company, N’Genuity. He often says 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.
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. He is on the bank’s board of directors and is said to be “rolling up his sleeves” and working along with everyone else to make sure that 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 University’s graduation ceremony. His speech was centered on the benefits of stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
On July 12, 2010 Jackson threw the ceremonial first pitch before the 2010 Home Run Derby at Angel Stadium in Anaheim California and participated in the celebrity softball game.
After 20 years since his famous “Bo Knows” campaign, Jackson returned to do commercials for Nike in the fall of 2010 for their “BOOM” campaign. In this commercial, he playfully taunted New York Yankees star Robinson Canó during batting practice before being impressed by a hit, responding to it by saying “Boom!”
In December of that year, Jackson was named a 2011 winner of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, given annually to six former NCAA student-athletes for distinguished career accomplishment on the 25th anniversary of their college graduation.
In April 2012, Jackson participated in Bo Bikes Bama, a 300-mile cycling trip in support of tornado victims in Alabama.
On March 3, 2013, Jackson won ESPN’s Sport Science “Greatest Athlete of All Time” bracket, defeating Roger Federer, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan in the semifinal, and Jim Brown to claim the title.
On January 22, 2014, Bo Jackson rejoins the Chicago White Sox as an ambassador to the team joining the ranks of Frank Thomas, Minnie Minoso, Carton Fix, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, and Bill Melton. Press Release
Bo knows stardom and disappointment
By Ron Flatter
Special to ESPN.com
There have been others — from Jim Thorpe to Deion Sanders. But even now, eight years after he played his last football game and four years since his last baseball game, Bo Jackson is still considered by many to be “the man” among multi-sport athletes.
Although he had the Heisman Trophy on his resume already, Bo Jackson’s 221 yards rushing against Seattle a month into his pro career really captivated American sports fans. Legendary? To this day, memories of Jackson linger, and not just because an ad campaign made “Bo Knows” a mantra. There was that Monday Night Football touchdown run through Seattle’s Brian Bosworth in 1988. There was the 1989 All-Star Game home run, which he hit while Ronald Reagan was in the TV booth describing it.
He never played for a world champion, but the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Jackson was the first athlete named to play in the All-Star Game of two major sports. Not bad for a guy who won a Heisman Trophy and became a 1998 College Football Hall of Fame inductee in a sport he described as his “hobby.”
“When people tell me I could be the best athlete there is, I just let it go in one ear and out the other,” Jackson said when his star was near its apex in 1990. “There is always somebody out there who is better than you are.”
Maybe in one sport or the other. But from the fall of 1987 to the winter of 1991, Bo knew no equal among paid athletes who took less than two months off.
In baseball, he was a career .250 hitter with 141 home runs and 415 RBI in 2,393 at-bats in eight major-league seasons (1986-91, 1993-94) as an outfielder and designated hitter with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. He hit 107 homers for the Royals from 1987 through ’90, when he also played pro football.
As a part-time running back making full-time money with the Los Angeles Raiders, he ran for 2,782 yards on 515 carries, an impressive 5.4 average, and scored 18 touchdowns running and receiving in that 1987-90 period. He is the only player in NFL history to have two rushing touchdowns of 90 yards or more, with a 91-yarder coming when he rambled for a Raiders record 221 yards against Seattle a month into his pro football career.
His last play as a Raider began the end of both his football and baseball careers. Even though the 1991 injury would lead to hip-replacement surgery in the spring of 1992, Jackson would make a triumphant return to baseball before retiring for good.
Vincent Edward Jackson was born Nov. 30, 1962, in the steel town of Bessemer, Ala. The eighth of Florence Jackson Bond’s 10 children, he was named after her favorite television actor, Vince Edwards, who portrayed Dr. Ben Casey. A child renegade, his family said Jackson was as wild as a “boarhog.” Eventually, he came to be known as “Bo.”
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About his tough childhood, Bo said in his book “Bo Knows Bo,” “We never had enough food. But at least I could beat on other kids and steal their lunch money and buy myself something to eat. But I couldn’t steal a father. I couldn’t steal a father’s hug when I needed one. I couldn’t steal a father’s whipping when I needed one.”
Hardly a model student, Jackson showed his prowess in sports — plural. At McAdory High School in McCalla, Ala., Jackson claimed two state decathlon championships. As a senior, he ran for 1,173 yards on 108 carries (10.9 average) and scored 17 touchdowns in football, and slammed 20 home runs in 25 games in baseball.
His baseball talent caught the attention of the New York Yankees, who selected him in the second round of the June 1982 draft. But Jackson turned down their multiyear contract offer to accept a football scholarship from Auburn.
In college, Jackson ran for 4,303 yards and scored 43 touchdowns in the regular season. Twenty-one times he rushed for three figures. He culminated his Auburn career in 1985 with four 200-yard rushing games in a 1,786-yard season and won the Heisman Trophy, an achievement Jackson called “my greatest honor.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Jackson the first selection of the 1986 NFL draft. But Jackson rejected their five-year, multi-million dollar contract. “My first love is baseball,” he said, “and it has always been a dream of mine to be a major-league player.”
So Jackson, who as a junior center fielder at Auburn hit .401 with 17 homers with 43 RBI in 42 games, waited until the Royals made him a fourth-round pick in the 1986 baseball draft before signing his first pro contract. After spending only 53 games in the minors, Jackson made his major-league debut on Sept. 2, 1986, and got an infield single off Steve Carlton in his first at-bat.
It would not be long before he would moonlight. Since he did not sign with the Buccaneers, his name went back into the 1987 draft, and the Raiders picked Jackson in the seventh round. Unlike the Bucs, Raiders owner Al Davis embraced Jackson’s baseball career. When Davis offered full-time money to pursue part-time football work after each baseball season, Jackson signed a four-year contract.
By 1989, Jackson was a baseball All-Star. His mammoth home run to center in Anaheim off Rick Reuschel leading off for the American League made him the All-Star Game MVP.
In 1990, the 698 yards he gained in 10 games with the Raiders earned him a selection to the Pro Bowl, though he would never play in the game. That’s because on Jan. 13, 1991, he suffered a hip injury while being tackled during the Raiders’ playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. No one knew at the time, but the resulting condition, known as avascular necrosis, would lead to the deterioration of the cartilage and bone around his left hip joint.
When Jackson’s hip did not respond to treatment, the Royals released him. He was picked up by the White Sox, but Jackson’s natural hip had given out for good after he played only 23 games in 1991. Within a year, the joint had deteriorated so much, doctors replaced it with an artificial hip.
Medical and athletic experts figured Jackson would not be heard from again. Apparently, there were no Bo Jackson experts to be heard. During the months after the operation, Jackson worked himself and his prosthetic hip back into shape. Not just to walk, but to run and compete.
Jackson’s return to the White Sox was even a bigger splash than his previous double burst into pro sports. In his first game back in 1993, Jackson pinch-hit a home run off the Yankees’ Neal Heaton. Although he hit 16 homers that year, he batted just .232 and the White Sox released him. Jackson then hit a career-high .279 with 13 homers in 201 at-bats for the Angels in 1994.
His career ended all too quietly when that season was cut short by a players strike. Not long after, his “Bo Knows” campaign for Nike, once a loud voice on the advertising landscape, ended just as quietly. Before the 1995 season began, Jackson retired from pro sports.
“God has his way of opening up our eyes to see reality,” he said. “The way He opened my eyes is to allow me to have this hip injury. That is a rough way to go, but I had to accept the fact.”
Keeping a promise he made to his mother before she died of cancer in 1992, Jackson went back to Auburn and graduated in December 1995 with a bachelor of science degree in family and child development.
He opened a motorcycle shop outside Chicago and went into partnership with Charles Barkley on an Alabama restaurant. He serves as president of the Sports Medicine Council, a non-profit, youth outreach organization of HealthSouth Corporation.
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