Thirty-five years later, Bo Jackson's iconic 91-yard tunnel run remains a vivid memory for those who were there

Thirty-five years later, Bo Jackson’s iconic 91-yard tunnel run remains a vivid memory for those who were there

When Tampa Bay drafted him against his stated wishes, he opted to play professional baseball. He was eligible for the NFL draft again the following year, but teams passed on him, presumably because they believed he was committed to baseball. Raiders owner Al Davis took a chance and selected him in the seventh round, then was able to sign him after agreeing that he could play football and baseball.

Jackson joined the Raiders midway through the 1987 season, which was a tenuous time for the franchise. The Raiders had won their first two games, but a league-wide players’ strike ensued, and the team lost two of three while using replacement players. Los Angeles was 3-2 when the regulars returned following the end of the strike, and a festering feud between Davis and Allen, a former league MVP and All-Pro, had yet to be resolved.

Enter Jackson, whose first game with the team was in Week 8, in the middle of what would become a seven-game losing streak.

“I guess we knew that he had been drafted, but we didn’t think about it a whole lot, because we had the strike,” said Lofton. “You don’t see college football when you’re in the NFL; Saturday is a travel day, and it wasn’t like you could go and pick up an Auburn game anywhere in the country, like you can now. I picked him up at his condo before his first practice, because his car had yet to ship out, and I’m not a super talkative guy and he’s not really saying anything. We get on the field, and he doesn’t know the plays, so his very first play, we run something simple, toss right.

“I’m standing behind the huddle and — I’ve been on the USA Track team and been around all these Olympians, fast guys on the Raiders, too — when they tossed the ball to Bo, I’ve never seen anybody run that fast before or after in my life. I remember looking at Marcus, thinking, There goes your job. It was kind of like, you know how we watch Derrick Henry now, and when he hits the line, there’s this big surge. Well, with Bo, there was just this big swoosh! when he went around the corner.”

Wilson took note, as well.

“For quarterbacks, even on running plays, there is a rhythm to the play,” he said. “You get the ball and, in most cases, you reverse pivot, stick your hand out, get the mesh point and hand off. It’s pretty much consistent; high school or college, there’s really not much difference. But the first time I handed off to Bo, it was way different. Bo could get up to speed so fast that you had to hurry, or you were going to miss him, and you were going to be stuck with the ball and have to do something with it. Bo could get up to speed in two or three steps, and he was flying.”

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