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Happy Hunter
Rick Telander
June 30, 2003
The �ber-athlete who gave two sports his best shot now takes dead aim at the good life
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June 30, 2003

Happy Hunter

The �ber-athlete who gave two sports his best shot now takes dead aim at the good life

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No, sir. No lessons," says the man who once wore Brian Bosworth on his grille the way a Porsche wears a June bug. "I took half a lesson one time. Guy was trying to teach me golf using football terms. Golf. Football. I mean, you're talking to a college graduate."

Bo Jackson, Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn, 1985, spanks the little white ball this early morning at Ruffled Feathers Golf Course in Lemont, Ill. The thing stays spanked. What would you do if you were clubbed by the only human to have thrown a football that hit the scoreboard hanging from the roof of the New Orleans Superdome, who broke a major league baseball bat—hello—while checking his swing, who slid into home during a spring training game on an artificial hip?

Now, it's not as if the 40-year-old Jackson, 6'1�" and a biscuit or two over his Los Angeles Raiders and American League playing weight of 230, is going to join the PGA Tour anytime soon. He refuses to keep a handicap, though he says he can shoot anywhere from "one over to 98." But who knows how well he could do if he really wanted to. If he took instruction, for instance.

"Nope," says the former Nike cross-trainers pitchman almost in mid-swing, the sun reflecting off his matching minihoop silver earrings. "Nothing I can't learn from watching Tiger Woods or Davis Love III."

Ol' Bo Jackson—real name Vincent but dubbed Bo when he was a kid in Bessemer, Ala., as wild and nasty as a bo' hog—always has had a mind of his own. And he had a body that, in the beginning, let his mind do most anything it conjured up. Such as throw an object with such force and accuracy that he once chucked a piece of brick up and over his backyard fence, high above a tree and over an outbuilding, blindly, so that it traced the anticipated path of a fleeing neighbor boy who had irritated nine-year-old Bo in some fashion. Far away the brick and the kid's head came together in a remarkable and predictably bloody fashion.

After that Bo went under his raised-at-the-back house and crawled on forearms and knees, G.I. style, until he was wedged in darkness at the front of the framed building. When finally discovered, he had to be pulled out by a big brother who yanked his ankles and a bigger sister who pulled that brother so that Bo could take the front-yard whipping his mother, Bebe, was obliged to administer.

"I was the John Gotti of the neighborhood," says Jackson, who with his wife, Linda, now has three children of his own, Garrett, 16, Nicholas, 14, and Morgan, 12. "Being a father, wanting responsible kids, I ask, 'How could I have done that?' Well, I had a reputation to uphold."

And that rep was tied to an almost supernatural athletic ability, noticeable from the get-go. Jackson, who could properly be called one of the greatest athletes the human race has produced, could always do things others couldn't. And don't forget that mean streak.

"We had crab-apple battles, and it would be five or six kids against... me," he recalls with a tone of dominance mixed with near victimhood. The point of a crab-apple battle was, as in so much of life, to pound the foe into submission. "I would throw until there was nobody left to throw at," says Bo. "I'd throw it right through your f——-' picture window if I saw you."

The arm was loaded. The brain was ornery. Years later, while playing rightfield for the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium, Jackson caught a ball on the warning track, wheeled and threw to third base to nail Mike Gallego, who had assumed, reasonably, that he could advance from second on the long out. This, by the way, was after Jackson had had his left hip socket replaced by metal and polymers. "Who cut that?" Gallego asked third baseman Robin Ventura. "Nobody," said Ventura. Gallego looked incredulously toward Jackson some 300 feet away. Jackson pointed an invisible pistol back at him and mouthed, Pow. Bo got a death threat because of it. "Somebody called the stadium and said they'd shoot me," he recalls. "My wife was there, and they sent her home to Chicago, mad as a wet hen. I had to have a police escort the rest of the series."

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