ESPN show to re­visit a two-sport sen­sa­tion

Doc­u­men­tary pro­vides up­date on star who be­came part of pop cul­ture.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS -

Bo Jack­son en­joys go­ing to the su­per­mar­ket much more th­ese days.

Back when he was a two-sport pro ath­lete and pop cul­ture star more than two decades ago, the fam­ily cook couldn’t do his gro­cery shop­ping with­out be­ing mobbed by fans. Per­haps sur­pris­ing for a guy who was once ev­ery­where on TV in a clas­sic ad cam­paign, not ev­ery­one knows Bo any­more.

“It really doesn’t bother me that peo­ple don’t know who I am,” said Jack­son, who turned 50 on Fri­day. “It’s kind of nice in a way.”

An ad­mit­tedly pri­vate per­son who long strug­gled with stut­ter­ing, Jack­son has taken on a more pub­lic per­sona re­cently. In the spring, he biked across his na­tive Alabama, re­cruit­ing other celebri­ties to raise money for vic­tims of the 2011 tor­na­dos that rav­aged the state. Jack­son was part of the four-man search com­mit­tee as his alma mater, Auburn, hired Gus Malzahn as its foot­ball coach Tues­day.

And he agreed to par­tic­i­pate in a doc­u­men­tary about the only man to be se­lected for both the NFL’s Pro Bowl and base­ball’s All-Star game.

You Don’t Know Bo, about the 1985 Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner, will pre­miere Satur­day on ESPN af­ter this year’s Heis­man cer­e­mony. The ti­tle, a play on Nike’s fa­mous Bo Knows com­mer­cials, was partly in­spired by a con­ver­sa­tion di­rec­tor Mike Bon­figlio had with his two teenage cousins, both big sports fans. They didn’t know Bo.

“That was a very in­ter­est­ing thing to me, that this guy who was so in­cred­i­bly fa­mous for a brief pe­riod of time — he was one of the most rec­og­niz­able names and faces in the coun­try,” Bon­figlio said on a con­fer­ence call with Jack­son on Wed­nes­day.

But even older fans who vividly re­mem­ber Jack­son’s out­ra­geous ath­letic feats might not really feel as if they know Bo.

“I think he’s still an enigma,” Bon­figlio said.

Jack­son thinks ev­ery­one makes his legacy more com­pli­cated that it was. Team­mates called him a freak of na­ture, he re­called, but “I’m just be­ing me.” As a kid, he played mul­ti­ple sports and played them well; the way he sees it, he sim­ply kept do­ing that as an adult.

“As far as do­ing the dual sports thing, that was just a way to keep me out of trou­ble,” he said. “Idle time with me is the devil’s work­shop, and if my mother was still alive, she would tell you.”

He played run­ning back for the Los An­ge­les Raiders and out­field for was my source of em­ploy­ment. It was my way of keep­ing a roof over my fam­ily’s head, putting food on the ta­ble for my fam­ily.”

Bon­figlio said the film would have gone on even had Jack­son de­clined to par­tic­i­pate. But Jack­son said he was happy to help as long as it didn’t take too much time from his busi­ness com­mit­ments.

“What sur­prised me the most about Bo is what a good story teller he is,” Bon­figlio said. “He’s just really, really elo­quent and just spins a good yarn, and he’s fun to lis­ten to.”

Those com­mer­cials cel­e­brated Jack­son’s ver­sa­til­ity as other stars from Michael Jor­dan to Wayne Gretzky list all the sports Bo knows. Jack­son doesn’t con­sider his fame a mar­keter’s cre­ation.

“You have to per­form to get that no­to­ri­ety,” he said. “You just can’t go and put your name on a shoe and be­come an overnight sen­sa­tion. You have to prove it.”

Bo Jack­son, shown af­ter hit­ting a home run in the All-Star Leg­ends & Celebrity soft­ball game in 2010, is the only ath­lete to par­tic­i­pate in the NFL’s Pro Bowl and base­ball’s Al­lS­tar game.

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