Bo Jackson was born November 30, 1962, in Bessemer, Alabama. He was born Vincent Edward Jackson, the eighth child of Florence Jackson Bond’s ten children. His mother was barely able to support her family with her job as a housekeeper since Jackson’s father, A.D. Adams, never wed Florence and in fact, had a family of his own on the opposite side of town.
The name Vincent quickly disappeared as Jackson entered adolescence and gained a reputation as a troublemaker. He seemed unable to stay out of trouble, breaking windows, stealing bicycles, and beating up the other kids in the neighborhood. As Jackson wrote in his autobiography, Bo Knows Bo (co-authored with sportswriter Dick Schaap), “I even hired kids to beat up other kids for me [because] I didn’t have time to beat all of them up myself.” His brothers started calling him a “wild boar,” because it was the only animal they felt he compared to.
They soon shortened the nickname to “Bo.” Jackson’s life as a hoodlum was short-lived, however, when at thirteen he was caught throwing rocks at the Baptist minister’s hogs. The boys had killed several of the pigs and the minister made them pay back the loss. Jackson had to take on odd jobs in order to earn his portion of the three thousand dollar loss. His mother, at her wit’s end and unsure of what to do, was encouraged by the preacher to send Jackson to reform school. Jackson realized that he needed to change his ways or be sent away. He decided to focus his attention on sports.
Athletics proved to be what Jackson needed to stay out of trouble. He proved a natural talent at baseball, but he also had an incredible work ethic that allowed him to surpass his peers. At thirteen years old, he had already moved up to the Industrial League in Bessemer, where he played against grown men.
Prior to entering high school, the neighboring community’s track coach, Dick Atchinson, asked Jackson to join their team. Atchinson would become Jackson’s mentor at McArdory High School, serving as his coach in both track and football, and later becoming his guidance counselor. Here was the father figure Jackson lacked as a boy. In his autobiography, Jackson credits Atchinson as the person who made him the standout athlete he was. He writes that “I couldn’t have become the human being I am without him.”
At the end of high school, the New York Yankees selected Jackson in the second round of the draft, but Jackson declined. His mother encouraged him to get a college degree, so in 1982 he entered Auburn University, where he went on to letter in baseball, football, and track. He was the first athlete ever to do so.
After his junior year in school, Jackson was ranked at the top of the list of eligible draftees for the Major League draft. Instead of entering, however, he chose instead to complete his final year of school. It would prove to be a wise decision. The next year in football he would earn All-Southeastern Conference running back honors (for the third straight year), be named an All-American, and would win the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
In 1991, Jackson suffered a hip fracture in an NFL playoff game. It was severe and the prognosis by the doctors had the Royals believing he would never return to professional athletics. They let him out of his contract early and the Chicago White Sox picked up his option. Football was over for the season, but Jackson’s love of baseball motivated his rehab, and in 1992 he was back on the field, helping the White Sox capture the 1993 American League West championship.
Retires From Sports Early
Jackson married his college sweetheart Linda Garrett in 1987. Together they had two sons, Garrett and Nicholas, followed by a daughter Morgan. In 1994, Jackson left professional athletics for good. It was another of his surprising moves. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He had grown up poor, without a father, and with a mother who was too busy to spend much time with her children. Jackson had vowed not to let that happen to his family.
After leaving professional athletics, Jackson declined offers to coach or work with the administrative staff of many teams that came to him. As he told ESPN reporter Bob Brown, he wants “no part of big-time sports.” “Now I cherish my privacy,” he says. “I’ve left professional sports. Believe it. I got a life.”
Jackson now has many business ventures, all of which are centered in Alabama. He organizes his many businesses under N’Genuity. He has Bo Jackson Enterprises, based in Mobile, and this business is the coordinating hub of many of the other businesses he operates, from nutritional food products to suppliers of manpower nationwide.