During the 1980s, there were few athletes that were as popular as the man known as Bo Jackson. A Heisman Trophy winner while at Auburn University, a top outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, and eventually a bruising running back with the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders.
There have been other two sport stars – Deon Sanders, Charlie Ward – but none who were able to embrace the duality as effortlessly as Bo. It was almost like he was gliding out there on the field; bigger, stronger, and faster than everyone else but somehow more graceful. Watch:
Being a two-sport star, Jackson was an endorser’s dream. He had his own signature shoe from Nike and was the star of the company’s very memorable “Bo Knows” campaign.
But a freak hip injury in 1991 with the Raiders forced Jackson to end his football career after just four seasons in the NFL. He was able to play four more years of baseball, but he never set foot on another football field after that unfortunate day in 1991.
Today, Jackson has a much different opinion on the sport that gave him a ton of fame. He recently spoke with USA TODAY about his feelings on the sport of football.
“If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.
There’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today. I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’ ”
Quite the statement from someone who used to pummel over opposing tacklers during his time on the field. But at the same time, he has realized how much of a toll the sport takes on a person not just physically, but emotionally.
Sure, there are former players today that struggle to get out of bed today because of the injuries they sustained in the NFL, but a number of former players committing suicide in recent years is what has really opened the eyes of those who used to put on pads for a living.
Jackson is just the latest former player to claim he wouldn’t have played the game if he knew what is known today about head injuries. Even President Barack Obama has stated that he would not allow any of his children to play football (luckily he only has daughters).
The former Raiders running back also told USA TODAY that he believes today’s game is more violent than when he played. This may be the case, but the league has also implemented numerous rule changes and equipment requirements that some believe actually make the sport much safer than when Jackson played.
But even with the NFL’s increased emphasis on player safety (mostly quarterbacks), anyone with a pair of eyes can tell that it is still a very dangerous sport to participate in. It always has been and will likely always continue to be that way.
And even Bo knows that.