August 25, 2011
LostLettermen.com, the college sports fan site and player database, regularly contributes to Shutdown Corner. Here's a look at former Raiders running back Bo Jackson.
According to a series of legendary Nike advertisements, Bo Jackson knew pretty much everything: football, baseball, tennis, cycling -- even cricket.
But more than two decades after those ads first aired, who would have thought the former NFL and Major League Baseball star -- the guy who was the subject of so much awe and admiration for his seemingly superhuman athletic ability -- would know banking, too?
These days, you can find the 48-year-old Jackson in the suburbs of Chicago as a part-owner and director of the Burr Ridge Bank & Trust.
The move isn't completely out of left field, so to speak, as he worked as a bank teller while at Auburn. But that's a long way from serving as one of 21 owners and directors of his own financial institution.
"When you are a teller, you are a teller," Jackson explained. "You know how to do cash-ins, cash-outs, debits, credits and balancing your cash box at the end of the day."
Needless to say, his new role is much more complex.
"I am constantly learning about the bank," Jackson said. "I can't go tomorrow and run the financial district if that's what you're asking. But you learn something every meeting."
The company was founded in 2009, right after the federal government passed a $700 billion bailout bill to aid the ailing financial industry. It seemed like a curious time to start a new bank.
"People thought we were crazy," Jackson said, "but we got into this with no excess baggage… So we started from scratch when everything started to sink."
According to Jackson, the risk has paid off handsomely.
"We are one of the top small community banks in the country right now," he said. "And it's not because of me, it's because of 21 directors working their butts off to make sure everything's done right and we are treating people like people want to be treated when they come to the bank."
Since he's not involved in the actual day-to-day operations of the bank, Jackson has plenty of time on his hands for numerous other activities and ventures.
A devoted husband whose three children have all left the nest (his daughter, Morgan, is scheduled to be a senior at Auburn), Jackson is still an avid sportsman who divides his time between golf (a reported six handicap, of course), fishing and hunting. He's so dedicated to hunting that he even has a room in his basement dubbed "the hole" full of hunting gear and arrows for his trusty hunting bow (is there anything more terrifying than being chased by Bo Jackson with a hunting bow?)
Cooking is another passion, and when Jackson's not in the hole, you're likely to find him in the kitchen whipping up gourmet meals. He also has a massive, 88,000-square foot dome sporting facility and non-profit organization for children to run.
What's most interesting about Jackson today is the contrasting sides to the man who has been described as an enigma.
[Related: Auburn engineers create robotic "War Eagle"]
There's the family man who was teased as a child for a stuttering problem (hints of which remain), has never been in trouble with the law or caught in a scandal and spends his time giving children opportunities he never had.
Then there's the guy a columnist once described as a "punk with muscles" who has proverbially stiff-armed the media and fans over the years, and has been described as an egomaniac for stunts like giving autographed pictures of himself to baseball teammates as a rookie.
But it's clear that Bo doesn't care what you think of him and seems even less interested in rehashing his past athletic accomplishments.
Consider what he describes as his greatest athletic highlight: "Purposely getting thrown out of a baseball game so I can actually go to the hospital to spend an evening with my wife and new-born daughter."
And that's exactly what made Bo Jackson so remarkable; the fact sports always seemed to be just a job for him — or as he once described pro football, a "hobby."
Vincent "Bo" Jackson grew up outside Birmingham, Ala., where he picked up his nickname after being dubbed "Bo'Hog" for the way he would run like a wild boar. It was the perfect way to describe the insane combination of size and speed that Jackson possessed.
How many other 6-foot-1, 220-pound athletes do you know that were clocked at 4.12 seconds in the 40-yard dash?
Jackson became a household name on the football field at Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1985 by rushing for nearly 1,800 yards.
Also a baseball star, Jackson decided to sign with the Kansas City Royals despite being drafted first overall in the 1986 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He said it was his dream to be a pro ballplayer.
Always one to gamble on a physical specimen, Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis took a flier on Jackson in the next year's NFL draft and convinced Jackson to play in the NFL part-time once the baseball season ended.
The legend took off in his fifth NFL game when, after Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth talked trash in the media, Jackson finished with 221 yards and three touchdowns on "Monday Night Football" -- including one scoring run of 91 yards and another in which Jackson literally ran over Bosworth and looked like a modern-day Jim Brown doing it.
Then came the 1989 MLB All-Star Game in which Jackson hit a colossal 448-foot home run and during which, as luck would have it, the "Bo Knows" campaign aired for the first time.
That's when things got crazy. Jackson was no longer just a phenomenal two-sport star; he became a pop culture icon and international pitch man whose celebrity status in sports was rivaled only by Michael Jordan.
Jackson seemed immortal, whether he was running up outfield walls, making the All-Star game and Pro Bowl in the same season or becoming the greatest video game player ever in Tecmo Super Bowl (for the record, Jackson has said in the past he's never played the game, but from what others tell him, "I guess I was pretty good in it.")
But it all came to a screeching halt during an NFL playoff game for the Raiders in January 1991 during which he dislocated his left hip while being tackled.
It didn't appear to be a career-ending injury at the time, but it led to the deterioration of cartilage and bone around his hip joint.
Jackson never played football again and, released by the Royals, played in just 23 games with the Chicago White Sox the following season. After taking the entire '92 season off after hip replacement surgery, Jackson played two more seasons before quietly retiring in 1995 to pursue acting (his last role was in 1998).
Now 20 years removed from his final NFL game, people talk about Jackson's athletic exploits with the same reverence reserved for legends like Babe Ruth or Red Grange. But because of an injury, a career many believed would conclude with many All-Star game appearances or a bust in Canton -- if he played football full time -- ended with one All-Star game, one Pro Bowl and a giant, "What if?"
While those two words will forever be attached to Jackson, he insists he never asks the question himself.
"No, I don't," Jackson said. "The man upstairs has a plan for everybody and my plan was to be in sports for the time he allowed me to and to move on to bigger and better things. I never look back."
It sounds like a cliché, but considering everything else Jackson has been able to do, would anyone really be surprised if Bo knows God's plan?
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