The Millionaire Next Door

Auburn Wins. . . Bo Signs

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.

4 thoughts on “Auburn Wins. . . Bo Signs”

  1. Favorite author ever. Your books have been an inspiration and have encouraged me to explore new areas of interest (which I emailed you about and you responded). Now you recognize my alma mater and my favorite athlete of all-time (outside of my grandfather who was a standout basketball player for AU). War Eagle and Merry Christmas.

  2. The humility is real. In 1988, at the Sugar Bowl pregame practice for Auburn, Bo was on the sidelines watching and I heard a man thank Bo for playing baseball, giving many boys the validation if they did not play football. Another man commented it must be hard to play 2 pro sports; Bo’s response was “Those Pampers are expensive.” Auburn is proud of Bo and one of his children is a Tigerette hostess now.

  3. Arnold Palmer prides himself on the fact that he has signed his name so many times over his career that his signature is virtually worthless. His manager estimates Mr. Palmer has signed his name more than 3 million times. A few years ago I took my 95 year old Grandfather to a Spring Training game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Although his eyesight was failing, he recognized a young player walking toward us and addressed him saying, “Hello, Mr. ____”. The player barely acknowledged my Grandfather and literally brushed him off when he bumped into him to get past without breaking stride. It made my blood boil to see an elderly, wholly decent man who fed a town during the Great Depression get the brush off from a punk athlete who other than gifted with physical ability, had yet to leave any enduring mark of value on the world. Bo Jackson is a class act. Thanks for reminding us.

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