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Bo Jackson, a Man for All Seasons, Elusive to Angels

July 13, 1985|GERALD SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

Said sportswriter Hollis: "He can bench press 400 pounds and he doesn't even lift weights regularly. The strength coach at Auburn calls him a genetic phenomenon."

In high school, besides being a football and baseball star, Jackson was also state champion in the high jump, long jump, triple jump, 100-yard dash, and anchored the state champion 400-yard relay team.

"Let me tell you, track is my first love," Jackson said, laughing. "If I could make a living off of running track like Carl Lewis does, football or baseball wouldn't even be in the picture."

Track's loss was Auburn football's gain, however. It was 2,517 yards' worth of gain, to be exact. Jackson gained that much yardage in only 372 attempts--that's a 6.8-yard average--in his first three seasons.

He was out for much of last season with a separated shoulder, one that kept him from competing with Doug Flutie for the 1984 Heisman Trophy.

Consequently, football people are no less effusive in their praise of Jackson, but it has gotten to the point where observers from both sports seem to think that whichever side can drown him with the most superlatives will win his services.

Said Tom Braatz, Atlanta Falcons' general manager: "Our people looked at him and, well, if he hangs around for the (1986) NFL draft he should be one of the top five picks in the first round. He has real unusual speed--he's a speed back, but he has the ability to bounce outside."

Said Gil Brandt, vice president of personnel for the Dallas Cowboys: "Bo Jackson? Oh my, even if you had a backfield with Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, and Eric Dickerson, you'd still draft him. You'd love to have him on your team.

"He's one of the few running backs--Marcus Dupree and Herschel Walker are the others--who could have gone right from high school to the pros and survived. He was full-grown right out of high school and has just tremendous upper-body strength."

So c'mon, Bo, fess up. At least tell us which sport you enjoy playing the most?

"It's a funny thing about that," he said. "I seem to enjoy whichever one is in season at the time."

From all accounts, Jackson is an unusual college athlete of his stature in that first, he goes to class--he just changed his major from child psychology to family and child development--and second, that he is decidedly loyal, and is fulfilling his commitment to his school's football program out of that loyalty.

It seems that if nowhere else, at least down in Alabama they have a sure-fire cure for baseball fever. It's called Auburn football, and Bo Jackson has long since caught it.

But just when you think that Jackson is all but signed, sealed and delivered to the NFL, he drops a zinger.

"I was out on the baseball diamond the other day to help my coach with a summer baseball camp, you know, with all the youngsters," he said. "And some of my teammates were out there, too. So I had them time three pitches--I was a pitcher and shortstop in high school--and do you know what?"

Tell us, Bo.

"Well, my fastest pitch was clocked at 87 m.p.h.," he said.

Hmmm. Is that Larry Himes there, ordering that plane ticket for another trip to Auburn?

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