AUBURN, Ala. — Bo Jackson never lets a moment go to waste when he returns to the town of his collegiate glory.
Though he now lives in Illinois, the two-sport star from Bessemer, Ala., always has a busy itinerary when he finds himself on the Plains.
“It’s just always fun to get back to Auburn, because I come back and see a lot of the folks that I care about,” said Jackson, on campus Friday to take part in presentation by the SEC Network. “I see my family members. I see old friends. I go to dinner.”
It provides a stark contrast to how he normally operates.
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“I’m somewhat of a recluse. I like to spend time at home,” Jackson said. “Business keeps me on the road, but I like to spend time at home. It’s just my wife and I now.”
A year ago, ESPN named him the “Greatest Athlete of All-Time.” But that distinction didn’t mean much to his wife, Linda. On the same day it was announced, she looked outside and saw heavy snowfall accumulating around their house.
“She said, ‘G.O.A.T, you know, that driveway is not going to plow itself,’" Jackson recalled. "So I had to go out and plow my driveway before it turned to ice."
Jackson had no problem with it. After all, he had learned one thing a long time ago: “If mama is happy, everybody’s happy.”
And that’s his lot in life now.
“I wash dishes, I sweep the floors, and I have her dinner ready when she comes home," Jackson said. "Listen: When my wife gets off work, she wants to come home, take off her clothes, put on her pajamas and sit down and eat dinner. It's my job to make sure that she's happy."
This past season, Jackson took great joy out of watching his alma mater make a run to the BCS championship game. He believes even greater things are in store for Gus Malzahn’s squad, though.
“It was fun. I think the next few years are going to be even more fun than last year,” Jackson said. “When we hired our new coach, I said to myself, ‘If we win five games this year, I’m happy.’”
When pressed for further detail, he declined.
“It’s going to be fun, just as simple as that. You don’t have to dissect that comment,” he said. “In my opinion, I think we’re going to have more fun in the next two years than we had this past year.”
After getting the chance to attend a practice recently, Jackson came away impressed by the gains made by quarterback Nick Marshall and the rest of the offense.
“Not only Nick Marshall, but the whole team is learning the Gus Malzahn system,” he said. “They’re more comfortable with it now than they were last season. I think some good things are coming our way. I just hope the players have as much fun as we spectators have when we’re watching them play.”
Jackson plans to do just that on Saturday — after he takes care of some other business first. Holding his “Bo Bikes Bama” fundraising event for the third straight year, Jackson is excited approximately 500 cyclists are set to participate.
“We’ve got cyclists coming in from all over the country, even Canada,” he said. “In order for you to get the full effect of what’s going on tomorrow, you need to be on the starting line at 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock to see the people.”
He went on to name fans he’s already seen from across the state: Those from Auburn and Alabama, Troy State and Alabama-Birmingham. But one aspect of the event has changed this year.
No longer is the goal to raise $1 million for the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund. Instead, Jackson is now focused on a more tangible objective.
"The goal is to build community tornado shelters in every neighborhood around this state that needs it around this state,” he said, “so if we have another Category 4 or Category 5 tornado, people have an opportunity to get to these shelters and avoid that tornado.”
Friday also coincided with an SEC Network presentation touting one of its coming installments in the “SEC Storied” series. “Bo, Barkley and the Big Hurt” will be centered around Jackson, Charles Barkley and Frank Thomas, three of Auburn’s greatest athletes who starred for the Tigers during the 1980s.
It’s still an ongoing debate as to who belongs at the top of the list.
“Barkley is No. 1 in his eyes. And we allow him to think that,” Jackson said in a short clip from the documentary shown during the presentation. “So his name for (himself) is ‘No. 1’ and he calls me ‘No. 2.’”
Barkley reiterated his stance at a chance encounter in an Atlanta restaurant last month.
“He said, ‘What’s up No. 2?’ and I’m like, ‘Just living in your world No. 1,” Jackson said. “It’s just that type of relationship.”
Of course, it’s all in good fun.
Above all else, Jackson cherishes any time he gets to spend with Barkley and Thomas, kicking back and swapping stories about their storied pasts.
“It’s always good to get back and sit down and talk with those guys and talk about the old days, when we were at the old Sewell Hall (athletic dormitory) and so forth and so on,” he said. “We had a lot of fun.”