Bo Jackson Once Ruined a Rival’s Career on the 2-Sport Legend’s Birthday

Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson was born on Nov. 30, 1962. In between that day and his 25th birthday, he endured a tough childhood in rural Alabama, played baseball and football at Auburn University, won the Heisman Trophy, and got drafted four times: twice by MLB teams and twice by NFL franchises.

On Nov. 30, 1987, Jackson performed one of his most memorable feats, dominating the Seattle Seahawks as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders and ruining another much-hyped prospect’s career in the process. 

Bo Jackson and Brian Bosworth were two of the biggest NFL prospects of the 1980s

After passing on a $250k offer from the New York Yankees out of high school, Bo Jackson went to Auburn, where he played baseball and football, per ESPN. Despite winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy, Jackson stiff-armed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the team that picked him No. 1 overall in the 1986 draft) and accepted an offer from Kansas City Royals. 

A year later, Jackson went back in the NFL draft, and the LA Raiders took him in the seventh round. Owner Al Davis allowed Jackson to report to the team after finishing his baseball commitments for the year, and the 6-foot-1, 227-pound RB suited up for the 1987 season. 

In the late 80s, another college football star was playing on the defensive side of the ball at the University of Oklahoma. Brian “The Boz” Bosworth was a two-time All-American linebacker known for his athleticism and flamboyant personality.

Bosworth tested positive for steroids during the 1986 season, and coach Barry Switzer dismissed him from the team. “The Boz” declared for the 1987 Supplemental NFL Draft. There, the Seattle Seahawks picked him No. 1 overall. 

During Jackson and Bosworth’s rookie year, the Seahawks and Raiders — then both in the AFC West — met in Week 11 of the ’87 season. This set up one of the most anticipated meetings of first-year players in league history. 

Jackson burst on the NFL scene on his 25th birthday and dominated Bosworth and the Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks vs. LA Raiders game took place on Bo Jackson’s 25th birthday, Nov. 30, 1987. Prior to the highly-anticipated Monday Night Football game, the brash linebacker bragged to the media he would “contain” Jackson, per PeoplePill.com

Brian Bosworth did anything but that fateful Monday night. 

After starting his NFL career in Week 7, Jackson averaged 63.6 yards per game in his first four games. Against the Seahawks, with something to prove facing Bosworth, the running back had the best game of his entire career. 

Jackson ran for 221 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. Two of those TDs are legendary in league history and went a long way to debunking the mystique of “The Boz.”

In the second quarter, on a 3rd-and-6 from his own nine-yard line, Jackson busted out a 91-yard run, leaving Bosworth in the dust. At the end of the run, in a now-famous NFL highlight, Jackson keeps running right up the tunnel after he scored as his teammates chase him in to celebrate. 

As he disappeared, color commentator Dan Dierdorf says of Jackson, “He might not stop ’till Tacoma,” referencing the Washington city 30 miles south of Seattle. 

The truly iconic moment came in the third quarter. On another third down, this time from the two-yard line, Jackson took a pitch from QB Marc Wilson and ran to the left. 

Bosworth met Jackson at the line of scrimmage.

Jackson, one of the most physical runners the NFL has ever seen, ran right through the defender. He dragged Bosworth into the end zone for the score and, as legend has it, when the running back got up, he told the linebacker, “next time, make sure you have a bus fare.”

The Raiders won the game 37-14. 

Both Bo and ‘The Boz’ had short NFL careers

(L-R) Bo Jackson, of the Los Angeles Raiders during the American Football Conference West game against the Kansas City Chiefs on 15 October 1989 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California, United States; Brian Bosworth of the Seattle Seahawks circa 1987 in a game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.
(L-R) Bo Jackson, Brian Bosworth | Photo by Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images; Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images.

After that Monday Night Football game, there was no question who the gem of the 1987 draft class was. And, the rest of Bo Jackson and Brian Bosworth’s careers played out much like you’d expect after that meeting. 

Jackson became a star, and Bosworth is now considered one of the biggest busts of all time.

Despite their opposite trajectories, they do have one thing in common: both their careers were cut incredibly short by injury. 

Two games into his third season — after just 24 total games — Bosworth retired due to a shoulder injury. 

Jackson played four seasons, but due to his baseball commitments and injuries, he played just 38 games. He retired from football in 1991 due to a hip injury. However, he did go on to play two more seasons in pro baseball. 

Bo and “The Boz” were inextricably linked after the famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) game on Jackson’s 25th birthday.

They are two of the most interesting characters to ever step on a football field and two of the most impressive physical specimens as well. Both players could have been NFL Hall of Famers under different circumstances, but injuries prevented that. 

And, both will be remembered for that game, 34 years ago this week. 

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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