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Sports Then and Now



Bo Jackson: The Best Dual Sports Athlete Ever 3

Posted on January 04, 2016 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 132 Bo JacksonNow, he’s the most entertaining star of television’s Heisman House football commercials.

But, back then, this fabulous football and baseball player was all the rage. Many sports fans regard him as the greatest dual sport athlete ever.

A 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, Bo Jackson not only dominated on the football field for the Auburn University Tigers. He also excelled at two other sports – baseball and track.

Voted #8 on ESPN’s list of the top 25 NCAA football players ever, Jackson dazzled as a fast and powerful running back while at Auburn. The 6’1” and 230 lb. Jackson rushed for an amazing 6.6 yards per carry. He amassed a staggering 4,575 career yards and scored 45 total touchdowns (43 rushing and 2 receiving).

This Heisman Trophy winner became the number one overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, because the Bucs inappropriately contacted Jackson outside of NCAA rules and regulations, the running back became ineligible for baseball during his senior season in 1986. As a result, Jackson chose not to sign with Tampa Bay and agreed to play professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals organization instead.

While at Auburn, Bo Jackson starred in two other sports. The football star qualified for the United States Summer Olympic Trials twice in the 100 yard dash. Jackson’s incredible speed became extremely evident during the spring of 1985 when he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time ever at 4.12 seconds at the NFL Combine.

In addition to track, the former Auburn Tiger excelled on the baseball diamond. In 1985 he batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 runs batted in while starring defensively in the outfield as well.

After graduating from Auburn, Jackson played eight years in Major League Baseball with the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels. He also left his mark in the NFL while playing four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

This phenomenal athlete is still the only athlete ever to be voted an all-star in two different professional sports – Major League Baseball and National Football League – and NOT be voted into either sport’s Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Bo Jackson’s brief but memorable dual-sport career ended prematurely.

Without his hip injury, he undoubtedly could have been a Hall of Famer in two professional sports…..

…..a fact, thanks to the 2012 ESPN Films 30 for 30 “You Don’t Know Bo” documentary, that every sports fan now knows. And not just Bo!

MIKE – on sports!

 

Is the SEC West Really College Football’s Stongest Division? 2

Posted on September 17, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers barely escaped an upset bid by Jacksonville State.

Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers barely escaped an upset bid by Jacksonville State.

The SEC West is college football’s showcase division and it’s in the Saturday spotlight with two big games for us to watch. It starts in mid-afternoon with Auburn-LSU (3:30 PM ET, CBS) and then concludes with Ole Miss-Alabama in prime time (9:15 PM ET, ESPN). Here are some early thoughts about these four teams from a handicapping perspective, pertaining to both Saturday specifically and the long-term…

AUBURN: The scare the Tigers got against Jacksonville State on Saturday, needing overtime to pull out a 27-20 win as (-39) favorite has cost Auburn a lot of stock nationally. In fact, the Tigers have been overpriced lately anyway. What do I mean by lately? Like ever since they finished off the 2013 national championship game, a cover against Florida State.

Last season, Auburn was priced like a national championship contender and couldn’t meet that bar. The Tigers were 4-8 against the number and now they’ve started 0-2 ATS this season, even while winning both games outright.

I’m willing to give Gus Malzahn’s team a pass for the Jacksonville State near-disaster. It was right in between the season opener against Louisville in the Georgia Dome and the LSU game on Saturday, the proverbial “sandwich” spot. My concerns lie with what happened in the Louisville game itself.

Auburn jumped out to a 24-0 lead and then had to hold off a late Cardinal charge to hold on 31-24. Louisville is an extremely young team and the Tigers failed to cover the (-10) line. They had serious problems defending Louisville’s versatile quarterback Lamar Jackson, who ran for 106 yards. Auburn’s own quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, threw three interceptions.

That’s not a formula for winning games against SEC opponents that have quarterbacks who can move. However, before turning this into a pile-on-Auburn segment, we also have to point out the positives. Peyton Barber is running the football effectively, going for 115 yards in the Louisville game and again getting 100-plus as one of the few bright spots against Jacksonville State.

Auburn also played good pass defense against Louisville. Jackson was not able to get anything going in the air. That might not project out to very much against some SEC West opponents, but is relevant against LSU, which has significant problems throwing the ball that we’re about to touch on. Read the rest of this entry →

College Classic Rewind: ‘Bama wins Iron Bowl on Last-Second FG 4

Posted on November 22, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The rivalry between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers is one of the most storied and intense rivalries in all of college football.

There have been many great games in the series known as the “Iron Bowl” such as Ken Stabler’s “Run in the Mud” in 1967 or Auburn returning two blocked punts for touchdowns in the 1972 “Punt, Bama, Punt”.

Another memorable chapter occurred in 1985 in a game that is simply known as “The Kick”, referring to Van Tiffin’s game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired to give Alabama the victory.

The Crimson Tide entered the 1985 “Iron Bowl” with a 7-2-1 record but unranked in the AP Poll as they were led by third-year head coach Ray Perkins, the successor to Bear Bryant who retired following the 1982 season.

Perkins had not exactly endeared himself to the Tide faithful as he had gone a modest 20-12-1 during his tenure in Tuscaloosa which included the first losing season for Alabama in 27 years with a 5-6 season in 1984.

With Mike Shula, the nation’s second most efficient passer, and all-American linebacker Cornelius Bennett, ‘Bama fans hoped that brighter days were ahead and that the Tide would soon back as one of the country’s most elite programs.

The Tide were underdogs to the #7 ranked Auburn Tigers who entered the game with a 8-2 record after starting the season as the #1 team before a loss in September to Tennessee.

The Tigers were coached by Pat Dye, who took over in Auburn in 1981 and led the Tigers to a 23-22 victory over ‘Bama in the 1982 “Iron Bowl” to snap the Tigers’ nine-game losing streak to the Tide.

In that game, freshman running back Bo Jackson scored the winning touchdown as he went “over the top” to score the one-yard touchdown run that gave Auburn the victory.

Jackson ran for 256 yards in Auburn’s 1983 victory over Alabama, but missed a block on a 4th-and-1 from the one-yard line that cost the Tigers dearly in the 1984 “Iron Bowl” as they lost to the Tide 17-15.

Jackson was in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy in 1985 as he had rushed for 1,644 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in the Tigers’ first 10 games of the season, but broke two ribs in the game against Georgia two weeks earlier.

Despite the pain, Jackson would play and help contribute to one of the greatest “Iron Bowls” ever played. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Classic Rewind: LSU Beats Auburn With Earth-shaking Touchdown 18

Posted on October 18, 2011 by A.J. Foss

When it comes to the toughest stadiums to play in college football, the LSU Tigers’ Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is generally regarded as the toughest, especially on a Saturday night.

Over the years, “Death Valley” has been voted as the scariest place for a visiting road team to play a college football game because of the loud decibel levels that are provided by the partisan LSU faithful.

One night in October 1988, the LSU fans got so loud after the game-winning touchdown against Auburn, they produced an “earthquake” on the LSU campus.

LSU was playing host to #4 Auburn, who entered the game having won their first four games of the season by a combined score of 161 to 44.

The Tigers were led by head coach Pat Dye, who was in his eighth season at Auburn and complied a 61-21-2 record in his first seven seasons.

Even though he had enormously successful at Auburn as he won two SEC championships and had defeated arch rival Alabama four times during his tenure, the 1988 team was perhaps Dye’s best team as it featured a defense that allowed only 79 points through the 11 games of the regular season and had the best defensive player in the country in defensive lineman Tracy Rocker.

While Auburn came into the game on a roll, LSU came in limping as they had dropped their last two games and entered the game with a measly 2-2 record.

The Bayou Bengals were under the direction of second-year head coach Mike Archer who directed LSU to their first 10-win season in 25 years the previous season.

LSU was having a difficult time replacing all-American wide receiver Wendell Davis and 1,000 yard rusher Harvey Williams as they evident by their 19-6 loss to Florida the week before the Auburn game.

Junior quarterback Tommy Hodson and the LSU offense had their work cut out for them as they faced with the nation’s best defense on a Saturday night in “Death Valley”.

In the first quarter, Auburn drove into LSU territory three times but each time could not get into or were taken out of field goal range and were forced to punt the ball all three times.

Meanwhile, LSU mounted very little offense as they were unable to cross midfield at all during the first quarter.

Looking for a spark on offense, Archer took out Hodson and replaced him with backup Mickey Guidry on LSU’s first possession of the second quarter.

But Guidry was unable to move the Tigers either as LSU did not mount a drive in the first half as they punted on all seven of their possessions. Read the rest of this entry →

Cam Newton’s Dad Really Blew It 66

Posted on September 12, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Before news broke that Cecil Newton had shopped the services of his son to college teams, they appeared to be the feel-good story of college football in 2010.

You know how sometimes you make a decision that seems to be a good short-term choice, but when looked in the bigger context probably wasn’t such a smart idea? Well, I can’t help thinking of that kind of notion when thinking about Cam Newton and the record-setting performance he had yesterday in his first game for the Carolina Panthers.

Even though the Panthers lost, given that Newton threw for more yards in his professional debut than any quarterback in NFL history, today should be a day when Newton is celebrated nationwide as a budding superstar and starts to cash in on his mile-wide smile, dynamic personality and athletic ability.

However, while I believe there is general appreciation for his performance and ability, I get the sense that many people across the country aren’t really interested in signing up for the “Cam Era” and likely will never embrace him in the way that his talent and potential might deserve.

You can choose to say that the reason for this is that he is a black quarterback in what is still predominately a white quarterback world, but I will respectfully disagree.

Instead, I believe that players such as Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Doug Williams, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and others have paved the way for someone like Cam Newton to be the face of a franchise and the face of the NFL.

In my opinion, the biggest reason that Cam Newton isn’t receiving the unbridled love of sports fans across the country can be traced to one of those short-term decisions. When Cam’s father, Cecil Newton, chose to hold discussions about how much it was worth to certain universities to secure the services of his son, Cecil unknowingly forever altered how his son is perceived by the sports world.

Whether or not you believe that money changed hands (to my knowledge no evidence of this has been proven) or whether you believe that Cam knew about the discussions (as of now the NCAA has ruled that he didn’t), you cannot help but look at Cam in a different light than if his father had respected the rules of amateur athletics and the NCAA and waited until after his son had completed his college career to cash in financially.

I have little doubt that if the world had never learned that Cecil Newton tried to trade the services of his son to Mississippi State for a six-figure cash deal, Cam Newton would have been the toast of the sports world even before his amazing NFL debut. Read the rest of this entry →

Cam Newton Wins the Heisman Trophy, But Will He Keep It? 0

Posted on December 12, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Cam Newton easily won the Heisman Trophy for 2010.

If this were a perfect world, Cam Newton might have been the first unanimous winner in Heisman Trophy history. Few college players have so overwhelmed a season as Newton has done in 2010. Every time his team the Auburn Tigers needed a big play to keep their undefeated season going, Newton used either his arm or legs to lift the Tigers to victory.

However, we all know that this is not a perfect world and unfortunately while a strange off-the-field situation didn’t cost Newton the Heisman Trophy, it did cost him a chance at the highest point total and largest margin of victory in the 76 year history of the award.

Even with being omitted on 105 of 886 completed ballots, Newton still eclipsed second place Andrew Luck by more than 1,100 points. Of the ballots where he was included, 93% had Newton rated first.

Now, the question becomes whether Newton will be able to keep the Heisman or if at some point he becomes the second winner in the last half dozen years to forfeit the award.

In his defense, Newton has starkly claimed and the NCAA has ruled that he was unaware that his father, Cecil Newton, was shopping around his services with the intent to receive money from the college that signed Cam Newton after he spent the 2009 college football season at Blinn Junior College.

These reports began to surface in late October while Newton and the Tigers were rolling through the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on their way to an undefeated regular season and conference championship. No evidence has ever surfaced showing that Auburn made illegal payments in the situation. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Bill Freehan: Michigan Man
      May 12, 2018 | 6:21 pm

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

      For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

      A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan.

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