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IT'S THE BO SHOW, PART II: KANSAS CITY, HERE HE COMES : But He's So Talented, There's No Telling How Far Jackson Can Go

March 30, 1988|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

Jackson's 100-meter time in 1984 was a hundredth of a second away from qualifying him for the Olympic trials. People covering him suspect that he could have made it easily, but note that he sat out the meet in which he could have taken a last shot. There is a theory that Bo didn't really want to go to the trials, since he knew he'd be a long shot rather than a dominator.

But fast? Who ever heard of anyone his size--6 feet 2 inches and 230 pounds when he reported to the Raiders--running that way?

National Football League scouts say he's the fastest player they've ever timed. Baseball scouts say he'd be the fastest player in their game.

"Anyone who thinks Bo couldn't play baseball is an idiot," sneered football Coach Pat Dye in Jackson's senior year. "They think Rickey Henderson is fast? They don't know what speed is."

And if you wonder what ever happened to our answers to Daley Thompson and Jurgen Hingsen . . .

Jackson set the Alabama high school decathlon record--and passed up the final event.

"The last event was the mile," said Atchison, who was also the track coach. "You can imagine him, 218 pounds and built like that. Anything over 400 yards and he's ready to cash it in.

"He asked me, 'Coach, if I'm so far ahead nobody can catch me, do I have to run the mile?'

"I said, 'If you're that far ahead, you don't have to run, but we better wait and see. There's some pretty good guys.'

"And I mean, the guy--he ran a 9.7 100 yards. That was the max. If you ran 9.8, you got 1,000 points.

"He threw the discus over 150 feet. That was the max. He threw the shot over 50 feet. That was the max. He triple-jumped over 44 feet. That was the max. He ran the hurdles in 12.9, and I think 13 was the max.

"We didn't even have a track at our high school. We have no pits or anything, and you have to pole vault in the decathlon. We couldn't even find anyone to loan us a pole because most poles aren't made for someone who weighs 218 pounds.

"Another high school let us borrow one, a pole for a 180-pounder. Bo used that and pole vaulted 12-6--and never touched a pole until the day he walked out on the track. I really didn't know if it would hold him up or not.

"But again, after about three tries, he looked like he'd been pole vaulting all his life. Bo's the kind of guy, he can watch somebody do something and do it.

"We said a lot of crazy stuff when he was at Auburn. We really never felt like he'd turned it loose. A lot of times, it looked like he was holding back, as far as making cuts and doing little things that we'd seen him do in high school.

"I don't know if Bo has ever played to his potential. That sounds crazy, a guy who's gone to L.A. and has gotten over 200 yards rushing in a game. But he only does what he has to do.

"I can remember his senior year in high school, we went to the state track meet. The state record in the triple jump was 44 feet. Bo had jumped 44 during the season, but this was the state meet. Well, with only one jump left, a kid from Fayette goes 47-8. Everybody in the stands is going, 'Oh, that record will never be broken. That's over 3 feet longer than the old record.'

"Bo had one jump left. I'm sitting there with my assistant coaches, and he goes after this kid--and he goes 48-8. And I mean, you knew when he was sitting in the pit he had broken it. That's what I mean. Had that kid jumped 48 feet, Bo might have gone 49.

"I saw Bo his senior year in high school high jump 6-9 indoors. He still holds the indoor record. Two hundred eighteen pounds and he high jumps 6-9?

"You know, I don't know what his potential is."

As a high school senior, Jackson was rated only the fourth-best halfback in the state. McAdory was a small school, and Atchison used him everywhere--tailback, fullback, defensive end, kicker, kick returner. About the only time Bo came off the field was to put on his kicking shoe.

Invited to visit by Nebraska, Tennessee and Alabama, he took only one trip, to nearby Auburn where he became pals with Chris Woods, now his Raider teammate. He decided he'd seen enough and declared for Auburn.

Spring came, the baseball-track season for Bo. Baseball scouts kept coming around. Atchison asked Jackson if they should be told they were wasting their time.

Bo said no. The romancing continued.

"I'll tell you one," Atchison said. "All the scouts came in one afternoon to see Bo play--the superscouts, the big guys.

"They had their JUGS guns, the clocks and everything. We were playing a little old school 50 miles from here named Dora High School.

"Well, that particular day, we had a track meet at Homewood High, and they had a kid who had just moved in. Now unless it was a big track meet, Bo would play baseball. Well, we get ready to load the bus for the track meet and Bo's on the bus with his track uniform.

"I said, 'Bo, I thought you were going to play baseball today.'

"He says, 'Nah, I want to run against that guy from Homewood.' The guy had run a 9.7 100 and he'd gone to Florida and won some relay.

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