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Over the last several decades, Bo Jackson has been regarded as arguably the greatest athlete ever. Now in his sixties, Jackson had tremendous success professionally in two sports — a feat that namely only NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders found since then.

There hasn’t been talk of a current two-sport athlete rising through the ranks at the collegiate level. With that in mind, Jackson has stated why he believes that feat won’t be reached again.

Bo Jackson’s professional career

Growing up, Jackson was a highly-talented athlete who excelled in football, baseball, and track and field. Born in Bessemer, Alabama, he continued to succeed in all three sports through high school and into college.

Jackson participated in track and field for his first two years at Auburn University, then stopped. He believed a track and field career wouldn’t give him the financial security that either the MLB or NFL would. Jackson found great success with the Tigers. The running back was a promising prospect in both baseball and football. He won the 1985 Heisman Trophy and was regarded as a tremendous outfielder and strong asset at the plate.

Jackson began his professional career with the Kansas City Royals in 1986. (The New York Yankees had selected him in the 1982 MLB Draft, but he’d chosen to attend Auburn instead.) Jackson began his MLB with the Royals after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ purposely made him ineligible to play at the collegiate level his senior year after a private jet ride to visit the team. Jackson was selected in the 1987 draft by the Los Angeles Raiders, where he played simultaneously with his MLB career.

His NFL career was cut short after four years due to a hip-replacement surgery. Jackson continued to play baseball after he recovered from his operation in 1991. He returned to MLB late in the 1991 season for the Chicago White Sox. He racked up 2,782 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, along with 40 receptions for 352 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while earning one Pro Bowl selection.

Jackson wound up playing eight seasons until age 32, where he batted .250 with 141 home runs, 415 RBI, 82 stolen bases, and 341 runs scored in 694 games played. That saw him earn an All-Star selection, 1989 All-Star Game MVP, and AL Comeback Player of the Year. He had four 20-home run campaigns.

Why Bo Jackson thinks there are no two-sport athletes

Since Deion Sanders last played for Cincinnati Reds in 2001, a two-sport athlete has ceased to exist. It’s a feat that is rarely talked about these days. And we aren’t seeing more multi-sport athletes make it to the pros.

With that in mind, Jackson voiced back in 2016 that he doesn’t believe there are two-sport professional athletes because the talent level is too high:

“Because the talent pool is too deep right. Kids are more advanced. Kids are stronger. They are bigger. They are faster. They are more intense. If you try to delegate your time between playing two sports you are going to end up riding the bench in two sports. Plain and simple.”

Compared to when Jackson played, more recent younger generations have more advantages when it comes to succeeding at sports. More knowledge, technology, and resources are available to youth, and there are more leagues, coaches, and trainers than in Jackson’s time. This has bred more talented young players than ever before.

Will there be another professional two-sport athlete?

It’s an open-ended question that doesn’t have a solid answer. Many pro athletes grow up playing multiple sports, which contributes to their skills overall. However, the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, and Russell Wilson had to shift their attention to one sport at some point before their professional careers.

It would take a tremendous amount of commitment to succeed at each sport. It would also involve the cooperation of multiple sports leagues, which are notoriously focused on protecting their organizations and, in turn, their athletes.

Ultimately, it’s a rare feat that speaks to how much of an athletic phenom Bo Jackson was during his time.


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