Happy 50th birthday to one of the most dominate athletes of all-time, Bo Jackson. The Auburn alum stands as the first athlete to be named an all-star in two major sports and will always be remembered for kicking ass as a Raider and smashing monster homers as a Royal. And for everything he did on the field, Bo became a larger than life pop culture icon off the field fueled by Nike’s historic marketing campaigns.
Being the shoe guy slash Swoosh devotee that I am, one would think that Mike ranks as one of my childhood idols. The truth is that’s only slightly true. Much like everyone else, I admired Mike’s athleticism, competitiveness and tenacity, but I knew I’d never be able to fly so it was hard to imagine myself like him when I was kid coming up and trying to play sports. The guys I idolized were more grounded and gritty. Guys like Bo and another Auburn alum, Charles Barkley. And to this day, Bo still hails as my favorite of all time.
Jackson was hard-nosed, fast and just seemed to go harder than anyone on the field. It wasn’t that he was quicker or stronger (he was), it was the way he played both sports with a mentality that said “I can outdo and outlast my opponent simply because I have the will to.” He possessed the skills and a driven nature which created an instant brew for success. Two of his specific quotes always stood out to me as they exemplify his approach.
“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.”
“If my mother put on a helmet and shoulder pads and a uniform that wasn’t the same as the one I was wearing, I’d run over her if she was in my way. And I love my mother.”
I’ve always loved what Bo stood for. It wasn’t about being bigger or badder. It was about pushing to be better than competitors, which ultimately lead to being bigger and badder. He didn’t brag or boast. He just did it and let others sing his praises. Along the way, he – along with Nike – redefined the role of athletes in America, creating larger than life individuals who embodied a mentality.
The gods at ESPN’s 30 For 30 recognize the real and their Bo episode titled “You Don’t Know Bo” airs Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at 9pm. Watch the trailer below then go ahead and set the DVR. For kicks, peep the random but appreciated YouTube highlight reel as well.