Bo Jackson was one of the most graceful runners the league has ever seen. Enough power to knock through the likes of Brian Bosworth, but fast enough to burn the field with a 4.12 40-yard dash, unofficially. Bo had it all going for him and could have been the greatest running back to ever step foot on the football field.
At Auburn University, Bo was a man among boys. In his four seasons in college, Jackson ran for over 4,300 yards while missing substantial time in his junior year. His senior year was an especially dominant one, running for nearly 1,800 yards on his way to being the first overall pick the following draft.
But you all know by now that Bo didn't go that route. Instead of becoming the franchise player of the lowly Buccaneers, he took his talents to the diamond and played baseball. He knew he was athletic enough to play both sports professionally, but Tampa declined him that offer, and he declined them the chance of being a great team.
In 1987, the Raiders acknowledged Bo's situation and took the Heisman winner in the seventh round. Teaming him up with Marcus Allen, the Raiders had one of the deadliest running back tandems in the league. Of course, we all know how that came to play. As a Raider, Bo built up the reputation that he was one of the leagues most feared runners.
Over twenty years have passed since that dreadful injury, the Raiders are looking at a similar scenario in their organization today.
Darren McFadden has almost the exact same story as Bo. Playing in the SEC, McFadden was too a man among boys. In his three seasons at Arkansas, McFadden embarrassed the top college defenses by running for almost 4,600 yards, 41 touchdowns and averaging 5.8 yards a pop.
Not only did he run all over defenses, he influenced NFL teams to try and emulate his playing style of the Wildcat formation. The two-time Heisman runner up made the Wildcat formation so popular, teams like the Miami Dolphins used it to temporarily escape the bottom of the NFL.
At 6'2", 210 lbs. and capable of running a 4.33 40-yard dash, McFadden used the Wildcat to boost his stock up to as high as the fourth overall pick. This time, it was the Raiders picking the explosive running back with a top five pick.
In his first two years, McFadden had looked like a huge disappointment. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, McFadden had struggled adapting to the pro game and was overshadowed by Michael Bush. In 25 games, McFadden only had 856 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Then along came year three. McFadden went crazy. Playing in a career high 13 games, McFadden had 1,157 yards, seven touchdowns and showed his explosive nature by averaging 5.2 yards a carry. Raider Nation was mesmerized and wanted more.
Year four provided just that. He started off just where he left off, rushing for 150 yards in the season opener against Denver. His MVP-esque season came to a crashing halt when he was injured on a routine check down pass against the Chiefs. In seven games, McFadden had over 600 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 5.4 yards a carry.
In case you've forgotten that Bo was even mentioned, I'll be glad to bring up their continued similarities. Both runners had prolific college careers that caused them to be drafted in the top five of their respective drafts.
Both runners had missed substantial playing times, for different reasons of course. McFadden played in only 45 games in four years due to countless injuries. Bo had his hands full with baseball, but still played in 38 games with the Raiders.
The big difference between the two, however, is that one suffered one big career-ending injury while the other has had a barrage of injuries such as turf toe, hamstring injuries and the dreaded Lisfranc fracture.
However, if McFadden's body continues to deteriorate, he could end up with the same fate as Jackson. Eventually, the Raiders will give up on him if he cannot produce for them at the amount they're paying him. While he has tremendous talent, teams will hesitate to sign him for the fact that they fear he will go down with injury again. He understands that the NFL is a business and if the injuries continue to sideline McFadden, he could find himself without a job.
The two are different, but similar in so many ways. Jackson had a big injury that ruined his career while the other cannot make it through a season without spending time on the bench. Despite that, they both share a running style that makes you scared that they will either plow through you or run by so fast that coaches will ride you until your nickname is "mule."
If you take a look at both of their stats thus far, you'll notice that their stats are so similar, it's quite scary. In 38 games, Bo ran 515 times for a total of 2782 yards. For McFadden, in 45 games, he's had 2627 yards on 553 carries. The two players both ran for 18 touchdowns. Bo edges out McFadden in yards and in average, beating him by 0.6 more yards a carry.
Nonetheless, McFadden's stats are still impressive, especially with the sophomore slump that skewed his numbers down. He also was a lot of a bigger impact in the passing game, catching for over 800 more yards than Bo.
Both of these players possess the ability to be the greatest ever. They both have jaw-dropping speed, underrated strength and other abilities that garners the utmost respect from everyone in the NFL. While Bo's career unfortunately ended with injuries, here's to hoping that Darren McFadden can improve his health and continue to carry on the Raiders running back greatness.