Bo Jackson won a Heisman Trophy as a bruising tailback for the Auburn Tigers and electrified football fans in a four-year career with the Los Angeles Raiders. But if he had the chance to do it all over again, he wouldn’t.
The former Pro Bowler and Major League Baseball all-star explained his change of heart with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, citing recent revelations in the field of head trauma as the main reason why he would avoid the gridiron.
“If I knew now what I had known back then, I would have never played football,” Jackson told USA Today. “Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.
“The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today.”
Jackson’s football days ended thanks to a hip injury that also derailed a budding baseball career. He played eight seasons in the major leagues but never regained the magic of a 32-homer campaign in 1989. While he hasn’t experienced the anguish several other players have dealt with in retirement, the research available and his personal connections are enough to keep his children from following in his footsteps.
“Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football,” said Jackson.
“I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’’’