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Jackson, Bo

Bo Jackson


American football and baseball player

Although not the first professional athlete to participate in more than one sport, when Bo Jackson decided to play both professional baseball and football concurrently, he became the most recognized person ever to do so. In the late 1980s, all of America knew who Bo Jackson was. They knew him simply by his first name, "Bo," due to a hugely successful national advertising campaign with Nike, the "Bo Knows" series that made his face and name common in living rooms across the country. Jackson's speed and power on both the baseball diamond and the football field were legendary, earning him awards as well awe and respect.

Growing Up

Bo Jackson was born November 30, 1962, in Bessemer, Alabama. He was born Vincent Edward Jackson, the eighth child of Florence Jackson Bond's ten children. His mother was barely able to support her family with her job as a housekeeper, since Jackson's father, A.D. Adams, never wed Florence and in fact had a family of his own on the opposite side of town.

The name Vincent quickly disappeared as Jackson entered adolescence and gained a reputation as a troublemaker. He seemed unable to stay out of trouble, breaking windows, stealing bicycles, and beating up the other kids in the neighborhood. As Jackson wrote in his autobiography, Bo Knows Bo (co-authored with sportswriter Dick Schaap), "I even hired kids to beat up other kids for me [because] I didn't have time to beat all of them up myself." His brothers started calling him a "wild boar," because it was the only animal they felt he compared to. They soon shortened the nickname to "Bo."

Jackson's life as a hoodlum was short-lived, however, when at thirteen he was caught throwing rocks at the Baptist minister's hogs. The boys had killed several of the pigs and the minister made them pay back the loss. Jackson had to take on odd jobs in order to earn his portion of the three thousand dollar loss. His mother, at her

wit's end and unsure of what to do, was encouraged by the preacher to send Jackson to reform school. Jackson realized that he needed to change his ways or be sent away. He decided to focus his attention on sports.

Athletics proved to be what Jackson needed to stay out of trouble. He proved a natural talent at baseball, but he also had an incredible work ethic that allowed him to surpass his peers. At thirteen years old, he had already moved up to the Industrial League in Bessemer, where he played against grown men.

A Father Figure Appears

Prior to entering high school, the neighboring community's track coach, Dick Atchinson, asked Jackson to join their team. Atchinson would become Jackson's mentor at McArdory High School, serving as his coach in both track and football, and later becoming his guidance counselor. Here was the father figure Jackson lacked as a boy. In his autobiography, Jackson credits Atchinson as the person who made him the standout athlete he was. He writes that "I couldn't have become the human being I am without him."

At the end high school, the New York Yankees selected Jackson in the second round of the draft, but Jackson declined. His mother encouraged him to get a college degree, so in 1982 he entered Auburn University, where he went on to letter in baseball, football and track. He was the first athlete ever to do so.

After his junior year in school, Jackson was the ranked at the top of the list of eligible draftees for the Major League draft. Instead of entering, however, he chose instead to complete his final year of school. It would prove to be a wise decision. The next year in football he would earn All-Southeastern Conference running back honors (for the third straight year), be named an All-American, and would win the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

The Injury

In 1991, Jackson suffered a hip fracture in an NFL playoff game. It was severe and prognosis by the doctors had the Royals believing he would never return to professional athletics. They let him out of his contract early and the Chicago White Sox picked up his option. Football was over for the season, but Jackson's love of baseball motivated his rehab, and in 1992 he was back on the field, helping the White Sox capture the 1993 American League West championship.

Retires From Sports Early

Jackson married his college sweetheart Linda Garrett in 1987. Together they had two sons, Garrett and Nicholas, followed by daughter Morgan. In 1994, Jackson left professional athletics for good. It was another of his surprising moves. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He had grown up poor, without a father, and with a mother who was too busy to spend much time with her children. Jackson had vowed not to let that happen to his family.

After leaving professional athletics, Jackson declined offers to coach or work with the administrative staffs of many teams that came to him. As he told ESPN reporter Bob Brown, he wants "no part of big-time sports." "Now I cherish my privacy," he says. "I've left professional sports. Believe it. I got a life."

Jackson now has many business ventures, all of which are centered in Alabama. He organizes his many businesses under N'Genuity. He has Bo Jackson Enterprises, based in Mobile, and this business is the coordinating hub of many of the other businesses he operates, from nutritional food products to suppliers of manpower nationwide.


1962 Born November 30 in Bessemer, Alabama, to A.D. Adams and Florence Bond
1975 At age 13, faced with reform school, Jackson makes choice to clean up his act and focus energies into sports rather than getting into trouble
1982 Offered a contract with the New York Yankees. Turns it down to go to college
1982 Enters Auburn University, becomes standout in football and baseball
1983 Runs for 1213 yards his sophomore season and compared to Herschel Walker
1984 Sidelined from football with a severe shoulder separation
1985 Selected in the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft by the California Angels. Declines and returns to Auburn for his senior year
1986 Joins Auburn's baseball team in the spring. Dominates with his bat
1986 Overall first choice in NFL Draft
1986 Signs contract with the Kansas City Royals
1987 Drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders to play in the NFL after the baseball season
1987 Marries Linda Garrett. They will have three children together
1990 Pens autobiography, Bo Knows Bo
1991 Suffers debilitating hip injury while playing for the Raiders, ending his football career.
1991 The Chicago White Sox pick up Jackson's option from Kansas City
1992 Undergoes hip replacement surgery
1993 Dedicates season to his mother, who had recently died of cancer
1993 Helps White Sox capture the American League West Championship
1994 Deciding to dedicate more time to his family, he retires from baseball following the '94 season
1995 Completes his undergraduate degree and graduates from Auburn in December
1996 Studies acting, and gets bit parts in movies The Chamber and The Sentinel

Awards and Accomplishments

1982 Football News Freshman All-American
1983 Named Most Valuable Player in Sugar Bowl; consensus All-American
1984 Named Most Valuable Player in Liberty Bowl
1985 Won Heisman Trophy
1985 Named Sporting News and UPI College Player of the Year
1985 Sporting News College All-American
1985 College Baseball Coaches Association All-Region Team
1985 College Baseball Coaches Association All-District Team
1985 Wins the Tanqueray award for excellence in amateur sports
1986 Voted Most Valuable Player in the Cotton Bowl
1987 Bert Bell Trophy; earned NFL's Rookie of the Year Award
1989 Voted American League All-Star and All-Star Game's MVP
1990 Named among the 25 Most Intriguing People by People magazine
1990 Selected to the Pro Bowl
1992 Winner of Jim Thorpe Legacy Award
1992 Recipient of "Power to Overcome Award" by Easter Seals
1993 Named the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year
1999 Inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

Though he wasn't the first professional athlete to play more than one sport concurrently, Bo Jackson has become the most recognized person ever to do so. Jackson's speed and power on both the baseball diamond and the football field were legendary, earning him awards as well awe and respect. His decision to leave the world of professional sports in 1994 stunned people, leaving many to wonder, were it not for injuries that plagued him throughout his career, how many records he might have broken.


Address: Bo Jackson, c/o Susann C. McKee, Bo Jackson Enterprises, 1765 Old Shell Rd., Mobile, AL, 36604.

Career Statistics: Baseball

CAL: California Angels; CHW: Chicago White Sox; KC: Kansas City Royals.
1986 KC .207 25 82 9 17 2 9 7 34 3 4
1987 KC .235 116 396 46 93 22 53 30 158 10 9
1988 KC .246 124 439 63 108 25 68 25 146 27 7
1989 KC .256 135 515 86 132 32 105 39 172 26 8
1990 KC .272 111 405 74 112 28 78 44 128 15 12
1991 CHW .225 23 71 8 16 3 14 12 25 0 0
1993 CHW .232 85 284 32 66 16 45 23 106 0 1
1994 CAL .279 75 201 23 56 13 43 20 72 1 3
TOTAL .250 694 2393 341 598 141 415 200 841 82 44

Career Statistics: Football

Receiving Rushing
LA: Los Angeles Raiders.
1987 LA 7 16 136 8.5 2 81 554 6.8 4
1988 LA 10 9 79 8.8 0 136 580 4.3 3
1989 LA 11 9 69 7.7 0 173 950 5.5 4
1990 LA 10 6 68 11.3 0 125 698 5.6 5
TOTAL 38 40 352 8.8 2 515 2782 5.4 16


(With Dick Schaap) Bo Knows Bo: The Autobiography of a Ballplayer, Doubleday, 1990.



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Gutman, B. Bo Jackson: A Biography. New York: Pocket Books, 1991.

Hanks, Stephen. Bo Jackson. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Jackson, Bo, and Dick Schaap. Bo Knows Bo: The Autobiography of a Ballplayer. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Rooney, Terrie M., ed. "Bo Jackson." Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, Book III. Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.


Associated Press (June 22, 1986).

Chicago (May 1997): 18.

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Detroit Free Press (July 1, 1986).

Ebony (August 1993): 72-76.

Jet (April 19, 1993).

Jet (April 24, 1995).

Jet (January 8, 1996).

Los Angeles Times (June 22, 1986).

Newsweek (December 4, 1989): 80-81.

New York Times (December 29, 1984).

New York Times (May 19, 1985).

New York Times (November 4, 1985).

New York Times (December 2, 1985).

New York Times (December 7, 1985).

New York Times (December 8, 1985).

New York Times (June 2, 1986).

New York Times (March 20, 1991).

The New York Times Book Review (December 9, 1990): 37.

People (December 2, 1985).

People (July 21, 1986).

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Sporting News (August 26, 1985).

Sporting News (December 16, 1985).

Sporting News (January 13, 1986).

Sporting News (February 10, 1986).

Sporting News (February 24, 1986).

Sporting News (June 30, 1986).

Sporting News (July 14, 1986).

Sporting News (October 27, 1986).

Sporting News (April 18, 1988).

Sporting News (December 24, 1990).

Sports Illustrated (October 3, 1983).

Sports Illustrated (September 5, 1984).

Sports Illustrated (May 13, 1985).

Sports Illustrated (December 2, 1985).

Sports Illustrated (March 31, 1986).

Sports Illustrated (July 14, 1986).

Sports Illustrated (May 4, 1987).

Time (September 29, 1986): 62.

United Press International (June 22, 1986).

USA Today (June 24, 1986).

Washington Post (June 22, 1986).

Washington Post (July 6, 1986).


"Bo Jackson." (January 1, 2003).

"Bo Jackson." (January 1, 2003).

"Bo Jackson." (January 1, 2003).

"Bo Knows the Heisman." Sports Illustrated (January 1, 2003).

Brown, Bob. "Bo Jackson Means Business." ESPN Outdoors. (January 1, 2003).

Sketch by Eric Lagergren

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