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Bo knows a life after sports Ex-Sox player and football great finds niche in business
BY TOM COYNE
Bo Jackson no longer hears crowds roar celebrating his White Sox feats, or, earlier, from fans wowed by his skills on the football field. Doesn’t matter, he says: “I’ve moved on from being an employee to being an employer.” Now 46, Jackson still lives in the Chicago area, as a part owner of the Burr Ridge Bank & Trust and the Bo Jackson Elite Sports Complex in Lockport. Jackson says he finds being a businessman just as rewarding and challenging as being an athlete. “I’m learning something new every day,” he says. “I’m also learning that if you don’t watch yourself, you can be taken advantage of quickly in the business world. The thing I try to do is surround myself with smart, astute business people, and that seems to help out a great deal.” Last week, Jackson entertained a crowd of about 300 people attending a College Football Hall of Fame luncheon in South Bend. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner says that people often tell him how sorry they are that his football and baseball careers were cut short by a hip injury he suffered in 1991. “Don’t be sorry for me,” he says. “It was a blessing in disguise. We, as humans, have to realize that God puts speed bumps in our road of life. My speed bump was me injuring myself. I’ve gotten over that.” Jackson – who says his name is short for “Boar Hog,” a nickname neighborhood kids gave him because he was so tough – says he always had extra motivation to play well against the New York Yankees because he believed team owner George Streinbrenner had told people that he had accepted a payoff to attend Auburn after passing up a $250,000 signing bonus with the Yankees. “He said in print the reason Vincent Jackson didn’t sign with the Yankees was because, since he signed with Auburn University, he and his brothers and sisters are all driving nice cars, and his mother just became owner of a chain of 7-Eleven stores,” Jackson says. “I’m thinking, ‘How can he say that?’ And if it’s true, where’s the Porsche I’m supposed to be driving?” Jackson says he chose college because he wanted to be the first in his family to go to a four-year school. It took a little longer than originally planned, but in 1995 he earned his degree in family and child development from Auburn. Jackson surprised the sports world back in 1986 when he was picked No. 1 in the NFL draft and spurned a $7 million offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Instead, he signed to play baseball with the Kansas City Royals. Eventually, he came back to football with the Los Angeles Raiders. He made the “Bo Knows” commercial in which Michael Jordan, Kirk Gibson, Jim Everett and other sports stars attest that Bo knows their sport, then Wayne Gretzky skates up and says, “No.” The commercial ends with Jackson trying to play a guitar on stage along with Bo Diddley. Jackson says his mother, uncles and aunts, all big fans of Diddley, wouldn’t believe he was with the famous musician until they saw the commercial. “That’s part of what makes my life so unique,” he says. “I’ve gotten to do things, go places, see people, that I never dreamed of.”