KINGSBURG — Mention Bo Jackson, the Kingsburg High junior football player, and it is hard for any 40-something sports fan not to flash back on Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson, the multi-sport superstar of the late 1980s and early '90s who played for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Royals, among others.
Who can forget the Score trading card of Jackson with his shirt off, wearing just football shoulder pads and holding a baseball bat behind his neck?
“Of course his name is synonymous with a famous pro athlete of the past, said Dan Jackson, the father of Kingsburg's Bo Jackson. “His biggest kick is when someone checks his I.D. at the airport or when a ref hears his name before a game. It’s hilarious because everyone remembers the great running back from a few generations ago and then see this kid now named Bo Jackson, running down the field. Bo (who is Caucasian) tells them ‘There’s no relation.’"
Still vivid for the 40-plus set is the Nike Air Trainer I shoe campaign featuring the African-American version of Bo Jackson, where Bo purports to "know" tennis, golf, luge, auto racing and then gets scolded by Bo Diddley at the notion he knows the blues.
Kingsburg High’s Bo Jackson does not have the superhuman athletic talent of the older, pro version, but he is a special young man. He has rushed for nearly 800 yards with 13 touchdowns this season in leading the Vikings to a 4-1 record. He also averages 10 ½ tackles per game.
Two Fridays ago in a 46-7 victory at Reedley the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Jackson ran 10 times for 117 yards and four touchdowns, made three tackles and had an interception.
"Bo is the ultimate team guy," Kingsburg coach David Wilson said. "He's one of the hardest-working players I've coached. He truly is selfless, and is always thinking about his teammates. He also is super-competitive and loves being a Kingsburg Viking."
The first hint of Jackson’s promise came in 2010 while playing with the Pop Warner pee wee Kingsburg Lions. Wearing the familiar No. 42 he still rocks, he can be seen on video running past, spinning away from and running over opponents.
“I played running back and linebacker and I was pretty good, but nowhere what I am today,” Jackson said. “I was smaller when I was a kid and I got better as I learned the game.”
Jackson has more than dipped his toe in an impressive athletic gene pool. His grandfather, David Jackson, played on the line for the Kingsburg High football team in the mid-1960s. His father played running back for Kingsburg High in the mid-1990s and his mother, Amy, competed in basketball and volleyball for the Vikings.
Jackson’s great-uncle George Jackson played on the line for a 1950s Kingsburg team that included future pro player and coach Monte Clark and 1960 decathlon gold medal winner Rafer Johnson, who averaged more than 10 yards per carry.
The current Viking star also has five younger siblings, most of whom are standout athletes, including Jett Jackson who is the quarterback of the Kingsburg High junior varsity team.
So, yes, Bo most certainly knows athletics.
Delving further back into Jackson family history, his great-grandfather Herschel Jackson and great-grandmother Clara came here from Tennessee in the 1930s. Herschel worked in the fields until he made enough money to buy his own spread, so a history of strong work ethic is there.
“My grandfather was poor and he was a field laborer who worked for a grape grower,” Dan said. “He worked hard until he could save enough money to buy a house and 20 acres. We love this city and it’s the biggest privilege to wear green and gold (Kingsburg colors) and represent the town.”
Bo echoed his father’s sentiments.
“I love being part of the team and being able to work with my teammates and grow as a unit and represent the town on the field,” he said.
Jackson is an avid reader and his favorite book is “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, a story about former Olympian Louis “Louie” Zamperini who became a pilot in World War II. Zamperini was shot down, survived 47 days afloat on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean and then endured a Japanese POW camp with a sadistic prison commander.
“I read about the dire circumstance he was in and the adversity he faced and how he was able to push through,” Jackson said.
Hmmm, Bo knows literature, too.
Jackson is also savvy enough to understand locker-room politics. Asked to pinpoint the reason for his success, he is quick to compliment the Kingsburg coaching staff and his offensive line of Mauricio Santana, Zack Wilson, Jacob Anaya, Kyle Peterson and Jalen Wilkins.
As for music, Bo may not know the blues, as in Bo Diddley, but he knows a little Mozart.
“One thing people may not know about him is that he plays the piano really well,” Dan said. “He’s unique in that he’s a musician and he’s artistic, but he’s also an athlete, too."
When a visitor to the Jackson music room at the family home just outside Kingsburg asked the player for some Beethoven, he said "I don't know about Beethoven, but how about some Mozart?"
Want more? Jackson is also the commissioner of activities at Kingsburg High and he wrestles, having made last year’s state meet.
Perhaps the finest attribute is that Bo knows God. He attends Grace Church of the Valley, a non-denominational church in Kingsburg where he dutifully plays the piano, bringing into focus a young man almost too good to be true.
“I don’t think (my faith) helps me in any sort of supernatural way,” the Kingsburg star said. “I just do everything for the glory of God and all of my actions are dedicated to Him.”