Bo Jackson, the first athlete in the modern era to play professional baseball and football in the same year, has been tabbed as the keynote speaker for the 51st annual ASA Banquet on Feb. 7 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center.
“It was pretty big shoes to fill the year after Tebow,” said ASA President Drew Espy, who attended Auburn for three years and watched Jackson play in his Tigers days. “We went out and got the greatest athlete of the 20th century.”
It’s hard to argue different. But that’s what the ASA is synonymous for, attracting the likes of NFL and MLB MVPs, Hall of Fame coaches, Super Bowl quarterbacks, award-winning journalists and LPGA major champions.
That includes Tim Tebow, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Bowden, Paul “Bear” Bryant and another dual-sport s
tar in “Neon” Deion Sanders, each of whom has helped the ASA gain the prestige and recognition to serve the community with its rich monetary donations.
Last year alone, the ASA raised around $140,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, the Okaloosa County chapter of Special Olympics, the Eleanor J. Johnson Youth Center and the Okaloosa/Walton County Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
This year with Jackson at the helm, that generosity could reach new heights. After all, the résumé of the former Auburn star precedes itself.
At Auburn, Jackson ran for 4,303 yards with 45 touchdowns and a 6.6 yards-per-carry average. During his senior year he posted 1,786 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy.
From there he was selected with the first overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he refused to play for them. Instead he signed a three-year contract with the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, who drafted Jackson with the 105th overall pick in the fourth round of the 1986 draft.
The following year the dual-sport athlete was drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders, who afforded the running back the freedom to play the whole baseball season before reporting.
He’d become the only professional athlete in history to be named an All-Star and a Pro-Bowler, finishing his four-year NFL career with 2,782 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns and his eight-year MLB career with a .250 batting average, 141 homers, 415 RBI and 82 stolen bases.
Among his NFL highlights, the then-rookie rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns against Seattle on Monday Night Football. In 1989 he was selected to his lone Pro Bowl after rushing for 950 yards, 5.5 yards per career and four touchdowns.
Among his MLB highlights, the outfielder made the American League All-Star team in 1989 and was named the MVP after robbing a two-run base hit and going 2-for-4 with a 448-foot homer, two RBI and a run scored. That year he logged a career-best 32 home runs and 105 RBI to accent 26 stolen bases.
“This is exciting for me because I was born into an Auburn family and had the opportunity to see Bo play as a young kid,” Espy said. “We’ve been represented by Georgia and Florida and FSU and Alabama but never Auburn, so this will be something different.”