A common misconception about Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas is they played togther at Auburn University.
Jackson, with the Heisman Trophy in hand, left Auburn in spring 1986. Thomas, a two-sport standout from Columbus High, arrived in the fall of that year.
As Frank excelled at Auburn, Bo Jackson was making his way through the minors to the Kansas City Royals, spurning the NFL because he did not want to play for Tampa Bay despite being the league’s top draft pick.
It didn’t take long for the comparisons between the two to start.
Auburn football coach Pat Dye compared them as athletes.
“People ask me who was the best athlete I ever coached,” Dye said. “Bo Jackson was the best athlete I ever coached. Frank Thomas was the second-best athlete. And I might have had it reversed. But Bo was chosen as athlete of the century.”
There is little argument Jackson was the better pure athlete, said Auburn baseball coach Hal Baird.
“Bo was without question the most incredible specimen I have ever seen in virtually every measurable physical category — speed, strength, eye-hand coordination, leaping ability, arm strength,” Baird said. “You name it, Bo was off the charts.”
Thomas was different, Baird said.
“Frank was a baseball player,” Baird said. “Now, he was a great athlete. Frank was into the nuances of game. What is going to make me different from the other really great players? He worked at that.”