Larger than Life and Bigger Every Day
People have always been naturally drawn to legends. Their larger-than-life content feed our inner desire to be more than our tangible selves. We all strive for excellence beyond what is normally expected in one way or another, and legends provide the motivation, hope, and belief that it can obtained.
In modern times, it has become almost second-nature for great athletes to begin amassing their own personal legendary status as they rise through the ranks of their respective sports. Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan serve as three shining examples of athletes that have seen their legacies continue to resonate and even grow long after they stopped competing.
The very same could be said about Auburn’s own, Bo Jackson, but to stop there would be a mistake.
The list of Jackson’s on-the-field accomplishments is a long one. Following his senior year of high school he was selected in the 2nd round of the 1982 Major League Baseball Draft by the New York Yankees. Bo declined the Yankees’ offer and enrolled at Auburn University. It didn’t take long for him to make his first of many memorable moments.
Mere months after arriving on the plains, Bo Over the Top gave Auburn its first Iron Bowl victory in nine years and Jackson never looked back. In 1983, he was named MVP of the Sugar Bowl and helped lead Auburn to an 11-1 record. After missing most of the 1984 season with an injury, he rebounded in 1985 by winning the Heisman Trophy. Bo’s football career had been mirrored by an impressive baseball career while at Auburn and that was a trend he carried forward into the professional ranks.
Initially, upon departing Auburn, Bo played only professional baseball in 1986. He then began playing both pro baseball (Kansas City Royals) and pro football (Los Angeles Raiders) from 1987 through 1990 until a tragic hip injury cut his football career short. From that point he concentrated solely on baseball until he retired during the 1994 players’ strike.
Throughout that time period Bo garnered an MLB All-Star selection (1989), was named MVP of the 1989 MLB All-Star game, an NFL Pro-Bowl selection, and was the focus of a huge marketing campaign run by Nike (second only at the time to their Michael Jordan campaign). Though Bo’s athletic career was cut short unexpectedly, he continued to excel off the field.
A decade after leaving, Jackson earned his degree from Auburn University in 1995. In the following years, he briefly pursued acting and also served as President of the HealthSouth Sports Medicine Council based in Birmingham, Alabama. Jackson is also a member of a group of investors that own The Burr Ridge Bank and Trust in Chicago, Illinois. Jackson’s pride and character shine through in describing the bank, “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 [Chicago suburb], it needs to be owned by the people who live in the community.”
Auburn University’s 2009 commencement speech was delivered by Jackson. In it, he preached the benefits of going outside of your comfort zone to find success, an art that he has seemingly mastered since exiting the world of competitive sports. Jackson was awarded the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in 2011, which honors former NCAA student-athletes that have gone on to have distinguished careers after graduating.
A year after tornadoes ripped through much of Alabama, Jackson organized a cycling event in 2012 called Bo Bikes Bama in order to raise money for the disaster relief effort. The event attracted people from all over the country as well as celebrities and was an overall success that helped out many in need. He will host the second annual Bo Bikes Bama again this year on April 27, 2013 to continue raising funds and awareness for families and communities still suffering from the disaster.
Jackson also continues to be involved with Auburn University. His most recent contribution came as a member of the search committee formed by Athletic Director Jay Jacobs to assist with the hire of a new head football coach. In a tumultuous time, Bo’s presence in the search put many fans at ease. After all, Bo knows.
His most recent accolade came, ironically, by way of his athletic prowess. In a recent poll conducted by ESPN that included the best of the best to ever compete in any sport, Bo Jackson was voted the ‘Greatest Athlete of All Time.’ This honor comes just under two decades since Jackson ended his professional career in baseball and nearly 25 years since he competed professionally in football. It is especially amazing when you consider that his most prolific athletic feats all occurred in less than one decade.
Auburn fans have maintained for years that Bo is the best ever, that there will never be another like him, and that, “it’s a shame you couldn’t see it for yourself,” when talking to fans and alumni of opposing schools. Now, the legend is real. A little vindication never hurt anybody, but it’s important to remember that the legend was always real. Those that never understood the ‘Bo Knows-this’ and ‘Bo Knows-that’ hype he generated, didn’t know Bo. And that is a real shame, because despite being named the ‘Greatest Athlete of All Time’ just recently, the Auburn Family has known that he was much more for a long time.