I suspect a lot of Auburn fans watched the Heisman Trophy ceremony on television Saturday night. I hope all of them watched the show that followed, a great documentary about Bo Jackson.
As good as the show was, it only scratched the surface of Bo as an athlete. For every story of his amazing feats that was featured in the documentary there are 10 more that weren’t mentioned.
The public knows about a lot of his accomplishments in competition, but I can say that it was just as impressive watching him in practice two hours a day when he was playing football for us at Auburn. Those amazing things he did athletically were so natural to him that he never even thought about them. He just went out and did them again and again.
As coaches we would see him do something in practice that was hard to believe, but we would go back and look at the practice film and there it was.
One of my favorite stories about Bo came from the Liberty Bowl. We were playing poorly on offense and so was Arkansas. Bo was on the sidelines standing next to me and I told him, “Bo, if you don’t make a play we are going to get beat.”
He looked and me and said, “Don’t worry, Coach.”
The next time he touched the ball he ran for a touchdown and we ended up winning the game.
There are so many Bo stories worth telling. Here is one that I didn’t see myself, but it sure stands out to me.
One time Bo made arrangements with my farm manager, Stacy Gunn, to go coon hunting. He told Stacy he hadn’t eaten one since he was a little boy and he was looking forward to cooking it himself. It took him a long time, but he ended up getting his coon and he also shot a rabbit on the hunt. I had cows then and we just had put up a five-strand barbed wire fence. To get to the rabbit he had to cross the fence, which is about five to five-and-half feet tall.
When Stacy was telling me about it, he said, “Coach, it was just the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life. He walked up to the fence, stopped and flat-footed jumped over it. It was like he just levitated over that fence!” That’s just the kind of athletic talent that he had.
Another thing that stands out about Bo was how calm he was. I can’t remember who all was in the suite with us while we waiting for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, but I remember we were all nervous as a cat except for Bo. He was on the couch asleep. When he woke up he said, “What are y’all worried about?”
He was the same way before big games. We would be getting ready to play against Florida, Georgia or Alabama and everybody in the dressing room would be uptight. You would look over there at Bo and he’d be propped up in his locker asleep. I think how calm he was in those situations was partly confidence and partly making sure he wasn’t going to waste any energy so he would be ready if he was going to get the football 35 or 40 times that day.
Bo was very close to his mother and she was a wonderful lady. She told me, “If you ever have any trouble just call me.” Fortunately, when he was at Auburn with us Bo showed good judgement. He always hung out with good young men on the team and good people in the community. He was close friends with teammates Tommie Agee and Lionel James. He was a close friend of George Mann, who was probably as good a deer hunter and outdoorsman who ever lived in the state of Alabama. His closest friends on our staff were great people like our trainer, Hub Waldrop, and our dorm counselors, Rusty and Sally Deen.
These days when I see Bo or talk to him on the phone what stands out to me is what a special human being he has become. Yes, he’s a 21st century sports icon like a Joe Louis, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Jesse Owens, but at the same time he is also a private person who is a great daddy, a great husband and a great citizen of our country and an Auburn man worthy of respect.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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