Classic MNF: Bo knows MNF
By Will Weiss
ABC Sports Online

If you didn't believe the hype about Bo Jackson before Nov. 30, 1987, you certainly did afterward.

Controversy surrounded Jackson because of his decision to bypass the NFL for a year after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him first overall in 1986. He instead opted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals, but Al Davis persuaded Jackson to the NFL.

Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson ran for 554 yards and four TDs in just seven games in 1987.
And in his fifth career game, Bo Jackson arrived.

He celebrated his 25th birthday by setting a Monday Night and Raider team record with 221 yards rushing en route to a 37-14 rout of the Seattle Seahawks, ending a seven-game losing streak and a six-year slide at the Kingdome, not-so-affectionately called the Temple of Doom by Raider Nation.

Jackson's night had an auspicious beginning, though, as he fumbled on the team's first possession, and Seattle capitalized, going 64 yards to open the scoring. The Raiders came back to tie, and then Jackson, with the help of quarterback Marc Wilson, took over.

On second-and-seven from the Seattle 14, Wilson dropped back and found Jackson wide open in the end zone after colliding with safety Kenny Easley. The touchdown gave the Raiders a 14-7 lead.

Then, a Ruben Rodriguez punt pinned the Raiders on their own 5-yard line. On third-and-six, Jackson took the handoff and went around left end. Eugene Robinson dived at him when he got to the corner but missed. At that point, Jackson turned upfield and, before anyone knew what had happened, Bo was gone. He had beaten defenders so badly it appeared as if he let up around the Seattle 30 and put it on autopilot from then on. He didn't stop running until he emerged from the runway beyond the end zone, and then tossed the ball up and swung at it with an imaginary bat as if to show the world of his two-sport prowess.

Then-MNF analyst Dan Dierdorf exclaimed, "He might not stop 'til Tacoma."

The 91-yard TD, which established a new Raider record and is second-longest on MNF, broke the game open. The Raiders tacked on a couple of field goals to cap a 20-point second quarter and hold a 27-7 edge at halftime. But Jackson was not done. On the Raiders' initial possession of the second half, he sparked a 75-yard scoring drive with a 42-yard gallop, and completed the effort with a two-yard power run when he literally carried linebacker Brian Bosworth across the goal line.

With the lead, the Raiders used Jackson, Marcus Allen and Vance Mueller to kill the clock. Allen and Mueller combined for 119 yards, taking the load off Jackson, who rested the final six minutes of the game. Los Angeles pounded the ball 50 times on the night, gaining a club-record 356 yards on the ground.

Top MNF Single-Game Rushers
Year Player Team Opp. Yards
1987 Bo Jackson Raiders Seahawks 221
1990 Thurman Thomas Bills Jets 214
1978 Earl Campbell Oilers Dolphins 199

For the Raiders, the win was one of few bright spots in a 5-10 season. Conversely, the Seahawks bounced back from the defeat to finish 9-6 and earn a wild card berth, where they'd lose to the Houston Oilers, 23-20, in overtime.

Jackson's performance left many to wonder what would become of him. Would he become the best ever? Should they get his bust ready in Canton? More importantly, would he make a decision to play football or baseball? After all, he had, at one time, called professional football a "hobby."

Bo continued to play both sports, and performed at a high level, with his best year coming in 1989, when he hit 32 home runs and knocked in 105 runs for the Royals, was voted MVP of the All-Star Game and then ran for 950 yards and four TDs in 11 games for the Raiders.

It was at the same time when Jackson was arguably the most well-known athlete on the planet, appearing in numerous commercials for Nike's "Bo Knows" campaign, and his autobiography, co-written with Dick Schaap, became the best-selling sports autobiography ever.

His flame went out the following year when suffered a hip injury in the 1990 AFC wild card game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The injury effectively ended his football career -- a career that spanned only 38 games. Jackson ran for 2,782 yards, caught 40 passes for 352 yards, scored 18 touchdowns and averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his four-year stint in the NFL. He was on pace to eclipse Jim Brown's record of 5.2 ypc, but fell 135 rushes short of the minimum 750 to qualify for the record.

He attempted a comeback in baseball, playing two seasons with the Chicago White Sox and one with the California Angels before queitly retiring from professional sports during the 1994 baseball strike.

What fans remember about Bo Jackson was his incredible speed, power and athleticism, all of which he displayed in his MNF debut. The 91-yard run was the defining moment of Jackson's abrupt career, a moment that elicits the prevailing question of "What if?" when looking back at Bo.

Will Weiss is the editor of ABC's Monday Night Football site.



 
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