Congratulations to the Auburn Tigers for winning the SEC Championship Saturday night. The following morning I was listening to 790 The Zone sports radio. One of the commentators had been at the game where he encountered Bo Jackson, 1985 Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn. As you may recall Mr. Jackson was also an All Star professional football and baseball player.
The reporter asked Mr. Jackson for a short interview. Mr. Jackson, however, graciously declined. He said that the focus should be on the young men playing that night, not on him or the past. The reporter seemed to be surprised with the humility of Mr. Jackson’s response. But I was not.
I first met Bo Jackson at the Heisman Award dinner in 1985 where I was the guest of one of my clients (a sponsor of the Heisman Award). Following the dinner, my key contact asked Mr. Jackson if he would sign autographs for the attendees. Note that there were several thousand people at the dinner! And a whole lot of them showed up for an autograph.
Hour after hour I stood back and watched this young “celebrity” sign countless autographs on everything from programs, napkins to footballs. He also was kind enough to pose for hundreds of pictures with these fans. According to my key contact, Bo Jackson was under no obligation to sign the autographs, but he devoted his entire evening to doing so. And I still have my picture with him on my office wall!
Given my first experience with Mr. Jackson, I shouldn’t have been surprised a few years later by another incidence of his magnanimous sensitivity to the needs of his young fans. While a Little Leaguer, my son sent Mr. Jackson (then a major league baseball player) a baseball card to sign. Not long after, the card was returned autographed by Bo Jackson. It’s still a prized possession. My son repeatedly told me with a big smile “Bo signs.” Some other players did the same, yet there was a cluster of other super stars who returned their cards with an order form to join their fan club for $5, $10 or $25 in order to receive a signature on their cards. I later saw Bo Jackson’s wife in an interview where she verified that he did indeed sign every card personally.
In this day and age when there are so many celebrities who never met a microphone or camera that they didn’t love, it is refreshing to reflect upon the dignity and humility of one of the greatest athletes of all time.