As Booker T Washington had judiciously spoken, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed”, one man had proved his words true. Retaining his mother’s ambitions for her children, Bo Jackson refused to allow other perceptions and voices to halt him from his determinations and principles.
From his birth to a single devoted mother and extreme poverty, Bo was the eighth of ten children. With no knowledge of his father along with having a speech impediment, Jackson fell into the life of a troublemaker. From bullying others kids, stealing money for food to breaking windows, Jackson’s brothers decided to name him “wild boar” which was then shortened to Bo. However, Jackson’s troubling ways were just momentary as he got caught for creating havoc with a few other boys when throwing rocks and killing pigs worth thousands of dollars at a Baptist minister’s log. They had to pay for the losses and the minister encouraged his mother to send Jackson to a reform school. Realizing that he would be away from his mother and family if he kept on creating havoc, Jackson began to redirect his energy and concentrate on sports.
With his endeavoring ways and exertion, not only did he excel at baseball, football and track, but he had also proven his determination as he played amongst grown men in the Industrial League in baseball at the young age of only thirteen. As he grew older, so did his determination and immense work ethic for his passion. Because of these traits, Jackson developed at such a ripe age; as a senior, Bo hit 20 home runs in just 25 games, rushed for 1,173 yards for 108 carries with 17 touchdowns and won two state decathlon championships. Enthralled by his exceptional achievements, The New York Yankees drafted 19 year old Jackson in the second round in the 1982 draft and offered him over $200,000, which he declined. Many would believe it was his greed for more money due to his financial circumstances; however, it was in respect for his mother, his promise and her ambitions for him and his siblings, which was to attend a major college.
Recruited by head coach, Pat Dye for his tremendous athleticism, he was given a football scholarship. Jackson decided to attend Auburn University where he mesmerized both coaches in football and baseball by his exceptional work ethics and by winning the Heisman Trophy, “Most Valuable Player” award while leading Auburn to a Sugar Bowl win as a sophomore. Along with those impressive feats, included a junior in the Liberty Bowl despite missing most of the season due to an injury, and in 1985, batting .401 with 17 home runs and 43 RBI. Jackson also qualified for the US Olympic Team for track and field for his blazing speed.
Yet, there was still another massive obstacle that could have jeopardized his passion and versatile efforts:
Knowing that Jackson was considered a first pick in the NFL draft, the Buccaneer’s decided to take him under control. When the Buccaneers had sent out owner Hugh Culverhouse’s jet to take Jackson for a visit and physical for his immaculate athleticism, they assured him that they had informed the NCAA. Later it was revealed, that nobody had notified the NCAA and Jackson was deemed ineligible to play in both sports. Jackson and many others believed they had plotted the scheme to get him ineligible from baseball so that they would have him under their wings. What they failed to realize was how high Bo Jackson held his principles and that they had unknowingly sabotaged him by betraying him. His determination and passion would not limit him for any amounts of money even though he and his family were in desperate need of it. He informed the Buccaneers’ prior to the draft that they will waste a pick if they drafted him and had later spoken, “If you screw me over like that, and I’m not part of a team yet, just think what they’d do to me under contract. I couldn’t do that. I needed the money. I was as poor as a Mississippi outhouse. I needed that money. But I couldn’t play for that man.” Despite being offered a contract worth $7.6 million for five years, which in the history of the NFL at that time, was the largest deal given to a rookie; Jackson stayed true to his words and declined the offer.
Less than a week before the Buccaneers’ season opener, Bo Jackson was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the amateur draft in 1986 and a deal worth $1.006 million for three years, proving that his morals and principles were held higher than the route of overcoming his financial circumstances offered by Culverhouse and the Bucs.
Along with playing for the Royals, Jackson was also drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1987 in the seventh round while being offered the salary of a full time starting running back, despite playing only part time due to his baseball career. One of his endless record breaking achievements with the Raiders included his 221 yard rushing performance on Monday Night Football in his first season. While spending four seasons in football and shocking many across the nation, Jackson was sidelined to a hip injury, in which a month later, he would be diagnosed with Avascular necrosis.
Along with retiring from football, the Royals were forced to release him. He would later attempt to play baseball again for the White Sox in 1991, unfortunately Jackson required surgery and had missed the entire 1992 season. Sports experts believed he would not return to baseball either.
Jackson’s hip was replaced eventually and while rehabbing, the woman who was the backbone to his family, his mother, was diagnosed with cancer. Before his mother had passed, he vowed to finish his degree while she struggled to survive. He would eventually graduate from Auburn with a Bachelors in Science degree in family and child development in 1995. Returning from his injury, one of Jackson’s greatest moments as an athlete in track, football and baseball, was for his mother. In his first at bat, Jackson hit a pinch-hit homerun.
Bo Jackson’s achievements could take an eternity to list. Living in the pinnacle of his career, he mastered his versatile athleticism in both the MLB and NFL as the only athlete to be named an All Star in both baseball and football. However, it is the traits he gained and the man he became throughout his life that truly made him great. From poverty to becoming rich in spirit. He even admitted in later years that he would continue to work on his grandest ambition; to be a great father to his kids, the kind he always dreamt of having.
Bo Jackson proves that we all can achieve inner success at multiple objectives, so long as we stay true to ourselves and be motivated by the inside world, not the outer one. Without his tremendous efforts and perseverance, would he have been considered such a legend? Without the faith he had in himself, his mother’s ambitions and being guided by his own principles, who would Bo Jackson have become? And if he did not hear his own words, how would he have spoken his infamous quote, “set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.” Bo Jackson will continue to inspire generations to come because he lived up to his words, he dedicated himself to his craft, and he sacrificed money for his deeper convictions.
Author Bio: Amera Kalsi