The Daily Helmet: That Time The Buccaneers Wasted A Draft Pick On Bo Jackson
Today is Round one of the 2019 NFL draft. I, like most football fans love the NFL Draft. It is like Christmas to a fan. There is or at least should be much optimism as most every team can claim that their roster has been improved. Obviously this is never really true and the streets are littered with draft busts or guys who just didn’t live up to the hype. Mostly the draft is dumb luck. It can be really difficult to know who will or won’t be a successful pro just based on their college career. Even still, sometimes teams do dumb things. Case in point the 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who famously drafted Bo Jackson, even though he promised them that he would never play for them.
The story is famous. Hugh Culverhouse had convinced Bo to take a flight back to Tampa for a physical and a visit to the Bucs facility. Assuring Bo that they had checked with the NCAA and SEC and that there was no threat to his college Baseball eligibility. Unfortunately, that was not the case at all and Bo Jackson was ruled ineligible to play in his final season of baseball at Auburn.
Bo was seething. He was convinced that this was a calculated move by the Bucs to ensure Bo would play football and not baseball. At the time football overall was more lucrative, especially for a rookie, but Bo warned the Bucs that if he was drafted by them he would not play a single down, instead he would play baseball. With the first pick in the 1986 draft, the Bucs ignored his stern warning and drafted the Auburn star anyhow and true to his word, he never played a down for them. Instead he signed with the Kansas City Royals, getting his professional start way down in the minors with the Memphis chicks, the Royals AA affiliate, eventually making it to The Show in September of 1986, just about the time he would have been taking the field for his first NFL games.
Prior to the 1987 draft the Buccaneers forfeited his rights and in the seventh round with the 183rd pick, The Los Angeles Raiders selected Bo Jackson. Raiders owner Al Davis was open to Bo playing both football and baseball, allowing him to finish the baseball season before joining the Raiders about halfway through the season.We can only wonder what would have happened if Bo had chose to play football. If only the Buccaneers had heed his warning and picked someone else. Perhaps the Falcons or Oilers would have selected Bo with the second or third pick. Imagine Bo playing for the Oilers and that Run N’ Shoot offense, they surely would have won a couple of Super Bowls during that period right?
My Favorite Bo What if
As a Bills fan, it kinda hurts that they never gave themselves the opportunity to draft Bo, even though it was a possibility. In 1984 and 1985 the Bills were the worst team in football, winning two games each year and earning the first overall pick in the draft. In 1985 the Bills used their first pick to select legendary defensive end Bruce Smith. With their 1986 pick, they decided to go in a different direction.
Bernie Kosar had decided he was ready for the NFL, but league rules stated only seniors and graduated players could enter the draft. Kosar had two years of eligibility left with the Hurricanes, but was scheduled to graduate that summer, so he was expected to declare for the 1985 NFL draft and stated his preference to play back home in Ohio with the Browns. Meanwhile in a complicated set of circumstances, the Bills signed Bruce Smith well before the draft and this opened up a trade between the Vikings and Oilers, giving the Vikings the second spot in the draft to select Kosar, but around the same time the Browns curiously traded a bunch of picks with the Bills to secure their 1986 pick, which in the 1985 supplemental draft would be the first overall pick based on the 1984 final standings. Kosar would not declare for the 1985 April draft and would instead be picked by the Browns in the later supplemental draft, signing a five year contract. The Bills would do just fine, selecting Frank Reich and Andre Reed in that same draft and finally signing Jim Kelly the next season after the USFL folded, but as gigantic Bo fan and a Bills fan I can’t help but wonder, no matter how unlikely it was, what it would have been like if the Bills kept their 1986 pick and picked Bo Jackson. The chain of events that would follow would have changed the a lot of things. This probably means the Bills wouldn’t have picked Thurman Thomas in 1988. Maybe the Bills would have been better in 1986 and 1987 or actually won the AFC championship game with a Superhero like Bo in the backfield. In the end it all turned out fine, but it didn’t and doesn’t stop me from being a Bo Jackson fanatic.
Ode To Bo
I have a mini Raiders section down here in the Sports Lair, where I have some of my Bo stuff. Plus I have a couple Bo Jerseys, one Raiders and one Memphis Chicks and of course little Bo who is a permanent resident of the Sports Lair. He is just the greatest athlete ever and it is completely heartbreaking that we never got to see his full potential on the football field.