In the first of a two part look at those super-humans who have succeeded at the apex of more than one sport, new contributor Ken Irons sheds some light upon the extraordinary career of Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson.
It is sometimes easy to forget that certain individuals have actually reached the very top level in more than one sport simultaneously.
One such a super- athlete was Vincent Edward ‘Bo’ Jackson, born in Alabama in 1962 as one of 11 siblings. His mother was a lone parent. He was a naturally shy kid with a tendency to stutter and this could lead to anger and subsequent confrontation with other children. Such confrontations, however, were apt to be short lived as it didn’t take long for his peers to realise that baiting him was unacceptably dangerous.
Bo soon developed a superb physique. He grew powerful shoulders, partly due to his ongoing love of bow and arrow shooting, and had a sense of timing that enabled him to throw huge weights accurately and at lightning speed. His massive legs and exceptional lungpower ensured that, when he fully matured (at 6 feet one inch and 225 pounds), he was about as fast an athlete as you were likely to encounter anywhere.
He went into baseball, football and track, with word of his talent rapidly spreading, and won a baseball scholarship at Auburn University from 1982.
His natural talents and sheer athleticism guaranteed that spectators always got good value for their money when watching him. It was whilst at Auburn (which was his ‘home’ college) that he was approached illegally and signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers who wanted him to play football for them in the ‘off season’. this led to his dismissal by Auburn, an action that pleased neither party, but one that was inevitable under the circumstances.
Bo then signed with Kansas City Royals for baseball. Soon his enormous strikes and scintillating speed, coupled with a natural sense of balance, had the fans aghast.
Once, he sprinted at top speed toward the fence to take an astonishing catch over his shoulder and then, to avoid collision with the barrier, actually ran 3 or 4 steps up, and back down, the vertical structure. This happened in one smoothly coordinated, unforgettable movement – small wonder that ESPN subsequently voted him the greatest athlete of all time, ahead of Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer et al.
Jackson’s football career commenced with L.A. Raiders. He declined further involvement with Tampa Bay, although he’d actually signed for them, feeling bitter about his enforced departure from Auburn and stating that he’d treat football as a “hobby” in the baseball off-season.
Only Bo, with his awesome qualities, could have adopted such a cavalier stance. His football skills matched his baseball skills and one could give no higher praise than that. He was, indeed, a superstar in both sports. Multimedia fame and highly rewarding advertising campaigns followed (see below.)
While playing football on 13 January, 1991, Bo was brought down from behind by a seemingly innocuous tackle which, it turned out, dislocated his hip.
Although he was optimistic about recovery at first, he subsequently underwent replacement surgery and, try as he might to recapture past glories, was never the same man again. He did play baseball with Chicago Whitesox (this, despite a false hip), but was a shell of his former self.
His legacy is well and truly preserved however. Indeed, if he had excelled in the modern era, rather than the mid-eighties to early nineties, such were his abilities that cynics would almost certainly be attributing them to the use of steroids.
Bo Jackson’s great tragedy was the cruelly shortened span of his domination.
Check back tomorrow for part two, where Ken takes a peek at a host of others who managed to excel at the zenith of more than one sport.