If you became a Raiders fan in the late 1980s, he is probably the reason. If you began to hate the Raiders in the late 1980s, he is also probably the reason.
Like the Baby Boomer generation following World War II, there is a Bo Jackson generation of Oakland Raiders fans.
I am one of them.
My dad was somewhat of a Jets fan. His parents had rented a beach house to Mickey Shuler of the Jets for several years when I was young. If not for Mickey he probably would never have been a football fan at all.
I loved sports and as a five year-old kid my parents turned an Eagles' Mike Quick jersey into a Shuler jersey. I wore holes through that jersey until I was nine.
It was at that age that I watched Bo Jackson for the first time. I haven't cared about a Jets game since.
I was so young, but even a kid recognizes excitement. While the world was idolizing Michael Jordan, my room was covered with posters of Bo.
What I now realize about my childhood hero:
Bo Jackson was the most remarkable combination of size, power and speed I've ever seen. At 6'1" and 230 pounds he was always the fastest man of the football field. To put his size into perspective, LenDale White is listed at 6'1" and 235 pounds.
The players were likely more than five pounds apart in game weight, but the fact remains the same. Bo Jackson had more speed than anyone his size in the history of the NFL.
In fact, it has been disputed that Bo Jackson ran the fastest official recorded time in the history of the league. This link in USA Today shows Jackson running the 40-yard dash at the Louisiana Superdome. You may be stunned at the time he ran in this article. Darrius Heyward-Bey is fast? Not compared to this guy.
YouTube is loaded with highlights of Bo Jackson's speed on display. Coaches always stress that their players take good angles at ball carriers to make tackles. With Bo's speed, the laws of geometry never seemed to apply. There was no "angle."
Anyone with the speed to get to Jackson was rarely big enough to make the tackle. At 230 pounds, Bo Jackson was always willing to run through defensive backs and even linebackers. He started runs like Earl Campbell and finished them like Deion Sanders.
His stats confirm his greatness.
He scored from his red zone and his opponents' red zone with runs of at least 88 yards in three of his four pro seasons. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry for his career before suffering a career ending hip injury. Compare his yards per carry to any NFL Hall of Famer.
Adrian Peterson appears to be the closest thing we have to Bo Jackson in the NFL right now. Before you laugh at the comparison consider one thing. Bo Jackson played in 23 NFL games in his career. He spent two years listed as Marcus Allen's fullback and played only half of all four seasons because he played baseball as well. Bo's highlight reel is as long as some Hall of Famers' with a ten year career. Take Adrian Peterson out of training camp and cut his career games by a third and imagine what his highlight film would look like. It would be impressive, but nothing like Bo.
While his time with the Raiders was cut short, his impact on the franchise was enormous. In part because of Bo Jackson, Raider Nation covers every corner of the country.
He was every great running back tied into one.
I am optimistic about the potential the Oakland Raiders now have in their backfield. Darren McFadden is one of the fastest players in football with the potential to be a superstar. Michael Bush is agile and fast with tremendous size and muscle. Justin Fargas is a speedy little warrior who plays like a man twice his size.
If this three-headed monster stays together it could be great, but I can't help but remember a time when Bo Jackson was our Bush, Fargas, and McFadden.