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Bo still knows

Two-sport pro star doesn't think today's athlete can split time and be effective in dual endeavors

Fred Mitchell

6:53 PM CDT, April 5, 2013

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Bo knows.

When it comes to playing two sports at the professional level, the degree of difficulty has increased since Bo Jackson starred as a running back for the Raiders and outfielder/designated hitter for the Royals, White Sox and Angels in the late '80s and early '90s.

"The era of the dual-sport athlete on the professional level is kind of extinct (because) the talent pool is so deep," Jackson said. "If you are trying to split your time between two sports (now), you are going to end up riding the bench in both … or failing at both."

Deion Sanders (NFL and MLB), Danny Ainge (NBA and MLB), Brian Jordan (NFL and MLB) and Dave DeBusschere (MLB and NBA) are among those in the modern era who joined Jackson in the dual-sport pro ranks. Some argue Jim Thorpe, who won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics (decathlon and pentathlon), played eight years of professional football and 289 games over six seasons in the major leagues may have been the best all-around athlete ever.

Jackson, who parlayed his dual-sport success into the Nike "Bo Knows" advertising campaign, doesn't foresee a renaissance of that type of rare athlete.

"Kids are more advanced. Bigger, stronger, faster … well, I'm not going to say faster … than my generation," he said.

Jackson, 50, is not ready to concede athletes today are faster. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn ran a 4.12 40-yard dash, the fastest time ever recorded at an NFL combine.

"Nobody has seen that 4.1 mark yet," Jackson said. "Kids (have access) to much more today as far as sports training, and they are training year-round. And you have to to stay in shape and compete on that level.

"As time goes, technology advances. So, I tip my hat off to the kids who have access to all of the things out there to make themselves better."

ESPN's Sports Science recently designated Jackson its greatest athlete of all time. He played for the Sox from 1991-93. Jackson returned from hip replacement surgery to homer in his first at-bat of the 1993 season. On Sept. 27 of that season, Jackson hit a three-run homer off the Mariners to help the Sox clinch the American League West.

Nowadays, Jackson says he is too busy to pay close attention to big league baseball.

"We own an indoor sports complex in Lockport (with) facilities big enough to accommodate a baseball team or a soccer team that needs to practice (when its cold)," he said. "We decided to bring the outdoors, indoors."

Jackson threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the season-opener between the Sox and Royals.

"I guarantee you my team will win today," he joked Monday about two of his former clubs. "I don't necessarily miss the game that much. It's more about missing the camaraderie. For me, personally, I just like to hang out here and see people who are behind the scenes.

"Herm Schneider has to be the best athletic trainer in professional sports. It's not just about what he did with me. He helped a ton of people get back on the field. He is the guru."

Jackson said he has no substantial ill effects from his playing days, including from the devastating hip injury suffered during the NFL playoffs in January 1991. After surgery, it was discovered he had avascular necrosis as a result of decreased blood supply to his left femur. The deterioration of the femoral head necessitated hip replacement.

"I never had problems with my hip or my knee (previously). I just fell wrong," Jackson said. "… If you fall wrong, come down wrong … your bones are not made out of steel … and something has to give. In my case, my doctor told me it was either going to be my knee or my hip. If my knees had gone, it would have been the mother of all knee injuries.

"So you can't do anything about that. I'm healthy. I have no problems with my hip. I play golf when I want; I get on my bike, go hunting, fishing, whatever I want."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34