Former Heisman winner and two-sport star Bo Jackson raised some eyebrows when he said if he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t play football.
But it was his first decision to not play football which showed his resolve as a man.
In a story by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Jackson discussed his decision to boycott the Buccaneers, after they used the first pick in the 1986 NFL Draft on him. He was upset because he thought they tried to trick him into giving up baseball, by flying him to Tampa for a physical and allegedly reporting it as an NCAA infraction, for which he was deemed ineligible for his senior season at Auburn.
So he warned the then-Buccaneers owner (the late Hugh Culverhouse) up front he was never going to Tampa, and to not waste a pick on him.
“Their people said they were looking out for me, and checked with the NCAA that it was OK for me to go on their plane for that physical,’’ Jackson said, “but nobody checked it out. Well, I put two and two together, and figured it out. They knew I was a first-round pick in football, but they wanted to get me away from baseball, so they got me ruled ineligible. I’m 100 percent convinced of that. They thought that would make me forget baseball.
“I told myself, ‘All right, if you screw me, I’m going to screw you twice as hard.’ If anybody else had drafted me, I would have gone, but I wasn’t going to play for that man.
“People thought I was crazy, but it was just morals. If you screw me over like that, and I’m not part of a team yet, just think what they’d do to me under contract. I couldn’t do that. I needed the money. I was as poor as a Mississippi outhouse. I needed that money. But I couldn’t play for that man.”
Jackson also had problems with Culverhouse (an Alabama graduate) at a personal level.
“I also observed the way they were treating people,” he said. “The fact the owners kept calling the players, ‘These are my boys.’ Their wives were doing the same thing. I couldn’t go there. I always believed that if you don’t believe in yourself, and stand for what you believe is right, who else is going to have faith in you?’’
Jackson’s willingness to sit was admirable, and sent him to another year of exclusively baseball, most of which was spent in the minors for the Royals.
The next year, the Raiders took a seventh-round flyer on him, and it paid off handsomely for them. But even though he became a major star in two sports and a worldwide marketing machine, Jackson was willing to stand on principle, and followed through by never playing for the Bucs.