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Jackson Bo Jensen is far too young to remember watching Bo Jackson, the professional athlete, perform his superhuman feats in the 1980s and 1990s. But he’s seen videos.
Running up walls, throwing baseballs a ridiculous distance and hitting baseballs even farther were just some of the things Bo Jackson was known for on the diamond. Don’t forget snapping bats over his knee or, even wilder, over his head.
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On the football field, Bo Jackson outran smaller men and ran over bigger men as if it were child’s play. His ability, combined with his versatility, inspired Nike’s “Bo Knows” ad campaign.
Topekan Jackson Bo Jensen is just shy of 10 years old, but he’s seen videos of the legendary professional, and is proud to bear his name when he performs his own feats of speed and strength.
On Jan. 30, Jensen will attempt to set some strength records that his namesake would be proud of. Believe it or not, there are powerlifting records for children his age, and Jackson appears likely to break many of those existing records when he competes in the USA Powerlifting Star City Showdown in Lincoln, Neb.
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Until recently, baseball was Jackson’s specialty. After bashing 26 home runs in his summer league, he was nominated to play on the USSSA All-American team in Florida. At that showcase, he recorded the fastest 60-yard dash of any of the 9-year-olds there.
Bo Jackson was so fast, he could be here and then gone in an instant.
Unfortunately, for Raider Nation and the rest of the sports world, that was the story of Jackson’s professional football and baseball careers, which were cut far too short by a hip injury.
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Tom Flores was the Los Angeles Raiders coach when Managing General Partner Al Davis signed Jackson in 1987, and Flores already had the great Marcus Allen in the backfield.
“What am I going to do with him and Marcus both?” Flores recalled thinking when Jackson joined the team. “But the very moment he stepped on the practice field and showed what he had, the entire team just went, ‘Whoa!’
“He was awesome. There was nobody on that whole field who didn’t feel his presence. He was without a doubt an instant star. No question. He would not say much, but he would just smile as he ran over you … 230 pounds that ran like lightning.”
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The 6-foot-1, 227-pound Jackson was selected winner of the 1985 Heisman Trophy while playing for Auburn, and also was Sporting News Player of the Year, UPI Player of the Year in addition to winning the Walter Camp Award that season.
Jackson was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the first pick of the 1986 NFL Draft but refused to play for them because team officials didn’t tell him that visiting their facility it would cost him his remaining baseball eligibility as an outfielder at Auburn that spring.
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When the Buccaneers wouldn’t trade his rights, Jackson turned down their $7.6 million, five-year contract in favor of a $1.07 million, three-year deal to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.
During eight seasons in the major leagues, Jackson batted .250 with the Royals, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels, and hit 141 home runs, many of the tape-measure variety.
In his only All-Star Game appearance in 1989, he hit a 448-foot home run off Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants while leading off the bottom of the first inning.
When the Buccaneers forfeited their rights to Jackson before the 1987 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected him in the seventh round and signed him to a five-year, $7.4-million contract.
Davis told Jackson he could play the entire baseball season before joining the Raiders, so he played only 38 games in four seasons with the Silver and Black, but they were memorable.
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Jackson Bo Jensen practices with what most people would consider a hefty amount of 130 pounds as a warmup for his deadlift competition last Saturday in his family’s garage gym. Jensen is going for the world record of 230 pounds for deadlift in his age group this Saturday at the USA Powerlifting Star City Showdown in Lincoln, Neb.
So weightlifting came as an afterthought this fall. In August, Jackson was hanging around while his older brother trained in the family’s gym. He shocked everyone in the room when, without permission, he walked over and performed the same deadlift that his high-school age brother had just completed.
“I was like ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa…OK,’ ” Jackson’s father, Joe, recalled. “He took to it like a fish to water. He’s been around it all his life, and it just came naturally.”
“I wanted to see if I could lift it,” Jackson said simply.
Starting his warmup before any lifting last Saturday, Jackson Bo Jensen utilizes his father, Joe, home gym at their Topeka house to practice for the upcoming USA Powerlifting Star City Showdown in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend.
When asked which exercise he enjoys most, Jackson stated without hesitation: “Lifting rocks.” He’s not kidding, for among their training equipment, the Jensens have a few round stones of various sizes, which look like they are straight out of a medieval strong-man exhibition.
Jackson began working out with his family, and quickly progressed enough to enter into the state powerlifting meet in Wichita last November. At that meet, Jackson made lifts that obliterated any existing Kansas records. But because there was only one judge at the meet, the lifts were not considered national marks.
With the watchful eye of his father, Joe Jensen, Jackson Bo Jensen begins to warm up with squats at his family’s garage gym Saturday evening.
This Saturday in Nebraska, the requisite judges will be on hand to make it possible for Jackson to set the U.S. records. Those lifts will also qualify Jackson to compete in the national meet in Florida in June. Although there will not be an international meet this year, lifters will compete virtually later in the summer.
Jackson said he likes the individual challenge that comes by nature of the “man versus weight” sport. But he did acknowledge that it was intimidating to have to lift before onlookers at the Wichita meet.