Over The Top: Freshman Bo Jackson Turns Auburn Into a Contender

Michael AbbottContributor IIIAugust 1, 2009

Bo over the top. To a Auburn fan no explanation is needed. It was the best single play Bo Jackson ever made at Auburn. Although no one knew at the time,  that one yard leap turned Auburn into a force in the SEC.

If you're not a Auburn fan let me give you a little back story.

Auburn just hired a little known coach named Pat Dye. Dye came to Auburn with a good win-loss record but not at a big conference school. He coached at East Carolina and Wyoming. But, he was a Georgia grad and was a assistant under Bear Bryant. That would pay dividends.

Bo Jackson was a senior at McAdory the year Dye was in his first year at Auburn. Auburn and Alabama both recruited Bo. Bo wasn't considered the best RB in the state but both schools saw how good a athlete he was.

Bo grew up, I hate to even mention it, an Alabama fan. Most experts thought he'd end up at Alabama when recruiting was done. After all, he was less than an hour away from Tuscaloosa.

One word from a Tide recruiter steered him toward the Plains. He told Jackson he "might" start by his junior season. Dye, on the other hand, couldn't promise him playing time, but could sell the fact that Auburn was building and he would get a chance to play his first year. Bo decided on Auburn.

Now, fast forward a year.

Going into the 1982 Alabama game the Auburn fans had hope. Bo gave them hope as did gritty play the team gave the whole season. Looking across the field at Bear Bryant didn't give any opposing team a reason to hope, but Bo did that.

The game itself wasn't spectacular by any means, not until the fourth quarter anyway. Alabama would end up with over 500 yards of offense and Auburn right over 250 and 53 of that was by Bo on one run in the fourth quarter.

Late in the fourth with the score 22-17, Auburn's defense finally stopped Alabama. Auburn took over on their 34-yard line with four minutes and 40 seconds to play. With a third-and 14-conversion and a pass interference call, Auburn drove to the one-foot line.

It was fourth down and goal. Everyone knew who was getting the ball, the Auburn players and fans knew it and the Alabama players and fans knew it.

Randy Campbell hands off to Bo, he leapt, and actually was stopped, but twisted his body on the pile and stretched the ball out.

Touchdown Auburn! With 2:26 to go, Auburn had the lead. But big deal, Auburn fans knew this story too well. Alabama would drive down and win, they've done to them a few times in the last 10 years. Alabama had won nine in a row.

Auburn intercepted a pass and won. Bo Jackson had gave given the Tiger faithful something long overdue, a victory over Alabama and Bear Bryant. That was Bear's last Iron Bowl. His era had ended; Bo helped Auburn 's begin.

It was on the TV news and newspaper headlines, "Bo over the top." Most importantly, it was on the minds of high school seniors a few months before signing day. How many recruits did it draw to Auburn, who knows but it did speed up the rebuilding process for coach Dye.

The next year Auburn was in the Sugar Bowl and defeated Michigan. Just two years before that, no Auburn fan would have thought that could happen. All because of a freshman named Bo Jackson.