I’ve said a hundred times here on LobShots that Bo Jackson is my favorite athlete of all-time. As a kid, reading Bo Knows Bo blew my mind. I couldn’t believe somebody that crazy, that bad, that bad-ass, could turn into the greatest athlete of my time. I just saw he did an interview with GQ. This is the quote that really caught my eye, “I was the John Gotti of my neighborhood, man. If anything bad went down in my neighborhood, I either caused it or I did it: car window smashed; bike stolen; kids being beat up, be it girls or boys. Somebody got hit in the head with a brick? I did it. Plate glass window got broken in somebody’s house? I did it. This was pre-computer and cell phone and video games. You had to do something to occupy your time.” Bo Freaking Jackson. Beast. Anyway, I figured you’d like to read it too… so I copied it below. So awesome…
GQ– “So that’s that stench I smelled when I walked in.” This is how Bo Jackson greets me, moments after I mention that I went to the University of Georgia, the historical rival of Jackson’s alma mater, Auburn. Pretty disarming stuff, especially coming from one of the most badass athletes of my—or anyone else’s—lifetime. Even today, nearly two decades after he retired from a two-sport career in the NFL and MLB, Jackson, who turns 50 in November, is still built like a fire hydrant with a tapered waist, like he could blast through linebackers and snap baseball bats over his knee, just like back in the day. He’s sitting in the bar atop New York’s Hotel Gansevoort, and he’s wearing a t-shirt that reads “bo bikes bama.” It’s the reason for this visit: At the end of April, Jackson will spend a week bicycling across his home state of Alabama to raise money for small towns and communities that were ravaged by tornados a year ago. He wants to raise $1 million. And when Bo Jackson wants to do something, he usually pulls it off.
···GQ: Are you any good on a bicycle?
Bo Jackson: I have always been an avid bike rider. Even before I became an avid bike rider, I was an avid bike stealer when I was a kid. [Laughs] I am very educated on bikes.
GQ: I know you live outside Chicago, but it seems like you’ve been on the sidelines at Auburn a lot recently, especially when Cam Newton was there.
Bo Jackson: This is a famous quote from my old coach, Pat Dye: “Fans of other colleges love their football team. Fans of Auburn love Auburn.” And that’s just the way it is. And this isn’t a jab at anybody. That is how we are. We’re family. Even if you’re a golfer, swimmer, horseback rider, bass fisherman, you are embraced into the family, and we pull for everybody. Not just Cam Newton.
GQ: They have a bass fishing team at Auburn?
Bo Jackson: Yes. That’s big there. I watch it on TV all the time, too. Colleges now have expanded into worlds that we never had a chance to experience, because I would have loved to be on the bass team.
GQ: Were you into outdoor sports as a kid?
Bo Jackson: If you call making homemade bows and arrows and slingshots, and shooting my uncle’s chickens as being “into” it, then yeah.
GQ: What did you make the bows and arrows from?
Bo Jackson: Just nylon cord and a stick. We made our own arrows: got bottle caps off of Coke bottles and bent them around the tip of the twig. Take a chicken feather, split the back of the arrow, put a feather down the center, get some thread and wrap it. Then go shoot a chicken.
GQ: Have you ever been afraid of anything?
Bo Jackson: Just my mom. I’ve always been afraid of my mom. She was the only somebody who could keep me in check. She was the only somebody who I allowed to whup my butt. Even at 17, 18 years old, if she got in my face, I knew who was the alpha dog in that group.
GQ: Do you think we’ll ever see another professional two-sport athlete?
Bo Jackson: No, the era of the two-sport guy is over. The competitive level in sports is so competitive now that if you try to split your time in two sports, you’re going to end up on the bench in both.
GQ: Football is king in the South. Why didn’t you play it as a kid?
Bo Jackson: Because my mom wouldn’t let me. I didn’t have the grades. She said, “Your grades are horrendous, so no, you can’t play sports.” Which worked out good, because it made me study harder. I wanted to be one of the popular guys. So that made me study harder and stop hanging out with the knuckleheads.
GQ: Were you a knucklehead?
Bo Jackson: A knucklehead is too soft. I was the John Gotti of my neighborhood, man. If anything bad went down in my neighborhood, I either caused it or I did it: car window smashed; bike stolen; kids being beat up, be it girls or boys. Somebody got hit in the head with a brick? I did it. Plate glass window got broken in somebody’s house? I did it. This was pre-computer and cell phone and video games. You had to do something to occupy your time.
GQ: One of the stories that has always stuck in my mind is that you supposedly ran a 4.12 40-yard-dash for the NFL scouts.
Bo Jackson: [Nods] Mmm-hmm. Well, it ranges from 4.12 to 4.13. It varies from day to day. When I looked at the clock it said 4.13. Everybody else had stopwatches and they had 4-flat, 3.9, but the electronic eye don’t lie.
GQ: Is that the fastest you’ve ever run it?
Bo Jackson: That’s the fastest anyone’s ever run it, as far as professional football players. The first time I ran, I slowed down about three or four steps from the finish line, and I ran a 4.3 flat. So my coach called me over and he said, “Hey, stop bullshitting with these guys. Go on and run through the tape.” I said, “Alright.” I got down and kept running.
GQ: Did you ever play against anyone faster than you?
Bo Jackson: Yeah. Willie Gault at Tennessee. Sam Graddy. [Stanley] Blalock, the sprinter from Georgia. And we had a lot of track guys playing football because the coaches thought we could get these guys on punt and kickoff returns and nobody could catch them. But those guys didn’t realize that the guys coming down to catch them were out there for one reason: to knock his spleen out of his butthole. So after they got hit once or twice, it was like, “This ain’t for me.” Alright, that’s enough about sports, let’s talk about my ride.
GQ: Who else is going to be riding with you?
Bo Jackson: We have different celebrities riding with me each day. From Scottie Pippen to Picabo Street, from Cam Newton to Lance Armstrong, from Ken Griffey Jr. to Eddie George. And I got a lot of my ex-teammates from Auburn, and ex-opponents from the University of Alabama are gonna ride with me. Each day I’ll have from 25-100 people riding with me. Not just celebrities, but corporations that want to sponsor their employees to come ride. On the final day, once we get about two and a half miles outside Tuscaloosa, we’re going to open it to the public, so guys like you who don’t ride bikes can come in and say, “I rode all five days!” and impress your buddies.
GQ: How have people in Alabama reacted to the idea of this ride?
Bo Jackson: People in the affected areas are happy that somebody is out there putting their town on the map. Maybe this will jump-start the insurance companies to get off their butts to do more, to process claims faster, to get these people some help. Because it’s my job to make them look bad. If they look bad on a national level, somebody will start calling.
GQ: Last question: Are you OK with being my second-favorite SEC running back of all time? I’m sorry, but Herschel Walker’s my guy.
Bo Jackson: Hey, I have always been number two. As Charles Barkley says, at least in his mind, he’s number one at Auburn. So we allow him to think that.