Royals History: Remembering Bo Jackson 30 Years Later

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Nov 28, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers former player Bo Jackson looks on from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers former player Bo Jackson looks on from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports /
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Royals Draft Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson turned down a $1 million bonus offer after the California Angels drafted him in the 1st round of the 1985 June draft. To put that offer in proper perspective, it wasn’t until five years later that Scott Boras secured the first $1 million bonus for an amateur player when he landed a $1.1 million deal for pitcher Brien Taylor from the Yankees in 1991.

Many baseball executives assumed that Bo turned down the Angels because he intended to play football. Instead, Bo Jackson had promised his mother that he would finish his degree at Auburn.

More from KC Royals All-Time Lists

Most people believed there was little chance that Bo Jackson would choose baseball over football after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the no. 1 over pick in the 1986 NFL Draft. What few knew was that Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse enraged the 23-year-old Bo Jackson by destroying his NCAA eligibility, thus denying him the opportunity to finish his senior year on Auburn’s baseball team.

Culverhouse did this by flying Bo Jackson to Tampa Bay before the NFL draft in March of 1986. Bo Jackson asked if accepting a free plane ride from the Buccaneers would impact his NCAA eligibility, and Tampa Bay assured him that they had checked and it would be fine. So, Bo Jackson took the visit.

However, the Buccaneers were wrong, or didn’t check, and Bo lost his eligibility over the issue. Jackson even came to believe that the Buccaneers had lied to him on purpose, to prevent him from playing baseball that spring.

On the traditional 20-80 grading scale, Bo Jackson might have rated 80’s across the board

As narrated in the video above by long-time KC Royals scout Art Stewart, Kenny Gonzalez had developed a long-term relationship with Bo Jackson’s mother. Due to this association, Bo Jackson’s agent contacted the Kansas City Royals front office and told them that Bo wanted to visit what was then called Royals Stadium. During that visit, Jackson told KC Royals officials that he wanted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.

Then general manager John Schuerholz wondered if Bo Jackson was using the Royals as leverage against the Buccaneers and waited to take Jackson until the fourth round. With Jackson still on the board, apparently having only informed the Kansas City Royals of his intention to choose baseball, they grabbed the most physically gifted baseball player the game has ever seen.

As Art Stewart indicated above, on the traditional 20-80 grading scale, Bo might have rated 80’s across the board. Honestly, I think Jackson’s hit tool was more like a 60, but his speed, power, arm, and glove probably were legit 80 grades.

Next: Bo Jackson Signs And Debuts In Kansas City

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