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Bo Jackson Interview

#arangiohero Oct 06, 2023
Bo Jackson Interview | Joseph Arangio

In my 20s, I had the honor of meeting Bo Jackson in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

One of my clients saw the picture below (scroll to the bottom of the page) and said, "Bo Knows Joe."

I thought that was a good one.

This article was originally written for Muscle Media magazine.

Bo Still Knows

Joe talks shop with former pro baseball/football standout and sports marketing icon, Bo Jackson.

Arguably one of the most gifted athletes of his time, Bo Jackson discusses his training, nutrition and stint as a two-sport professional athlete.

By Joseph A. Arangio, M.S., C.S.C.S.

After wining the Heisman Trophy at Auburn University in 1985, Vincent E. “Bo” Jackson signed with the Kansas City Royals. The following season he joined the Los Angeles Raiders—and made the history books again as one of a select few athletes to participate in two professional sports.

In his spare time, the 6’1”, 225-pound tailback/outfielder spearheaded the successful “Bo Knows” Nike advertising campaign. Although a severe hip injury sidelined his football career in 1991, Bo defied the skeptics and returned to baseball after hip-replacement surgery.

His baseball homecoming was celebrated in typical Bo style: He slugged a home run at his first at bat. Jackson played for two more seasons until he retired from professional sports in 1994.

We caught up with Bo—he still knows.

JOSEPH ARANGIO: Is baseball your first love?

BO JACKSON: Actually, no. And it’s not football either. My first love is track. Track is one of the first organized sports that I was involved with. I snuck out of the classroom in the third grade and I went out and practiced with the fourth, fifth and sixth graders—and I outran and out-jumped everybody. So I was running track way before I became interested in baseball. Actually football was the last sport that I participated in. I wasn’t a football player until my ninth grade year in high school.

I was always blessed with unusual speed and a strong arm, even as a kid. I was clearly the fastest kid in my neighborhood. Track is a sport that allowed me to excel. So I was used to running, sprinting and performing explosive-type movements. Luckily I was involved with sports that required this speed and quickness. It pays to be fast in sports like football and baseball. I was gifted with the God-given talent to run. So on the playground or on the playing field, I utilized this gift to the best of my ability.

JA: You are one of a few athletes ever to play in two sports at the elite level. How did you handle the rigors of both professional baseball and football?

BJ: Neither football nor baseball was more rigorous on the body. It was the busy travel schedule that was, and still is, most challenging. I’ve been participating in sports since I was in the third grade. For many years my role as a two-sport athlete was simply a part of life. Even today, I am never physically tired—maybe tired of traveling—because I am doing what I love. Everything else is a piece of cake.

JA: Describe your nutrition strategies.

BJ: When I was a competitive athlete, I ate anything I wanted. Not because I was undisciplined, but because I knew that I would burn off the food during practice. When I was younger, my workout regimen was strictly practice—track, baseball or football. So during my competitive years I never really spent much time in the gym—and I ate just about anything I wanted.

These days I eat practically anything I want in moderation, but I am still a very active person. I have a very slow metabolism so it is important for me to train on a regular basis to speed up my metabolism and burn off the excess calories.

JA: How did you create the lean, powerful physique, which allowed you to excel as a two-sport athlete?

BJ: I was always in top form because I went directly from one sport to another—and never took any time off. So being out of shape was never a part of my life. I kept myself busy year-round. And if you’ve done as much running as I’ve done over the past years, you don’t get out of shape too easy.

When it comes to my training, I have to thank the man upstairs. I’ve never been the type of person that would go to the gym and work out. What you see is what God, my grandfather and my mother gave me—they passed down good genes. I don’t enjoy lifting heavy weights. I dislike running long distances. Plus I eat practically anything I want. However, as I get older I have learned to make better food choices and incorporate the gym into my weekly schedule.

JA: You endured a severe football-related hip injury in 1991, but returned to professional baseball after hip-replacement surgery. How did your training help you return to competitive athletics?

BJ: I’m not the type of person that is going to give up on something. I refuse to let a sport tell me that it’s time to leave. I wasn’t ready to stop playing baseball, so I continued to play after my surgery.

At the time that I was rehabbing my injury, I wasn’t planning to return to competitive sports; however, my physical therapy and strength and conditioning went so well that I decided to give baseball another shot. I promised my mother, before she passed away, that if I did come back to play professional baseball I would do it just for her.

JA: To what degree did your rehabilitation and strength and conditioning help you get back in the game?

BJ: It was a combination of the physical rehabilitation and my fighting instinct that pushed me through the recovery process and helped me get back on the field. At the time of my injury, I wasn’t prepared to give up what I loved to do.

JA: How does your training help you deal with the pressures of everyday life?

BJ: Well, I’ve learned to separate my everyday job from my life after work, as a husband and a father. I leave work at the office and I leave my family responsibilities at home. The secret is to keep the two priorities separated while maintaining an even keel.

JA: How often do you train with free weights?

BJ: I perform exercises that utilize my own body weight as the resistance. I’ve never been a big fan of the weight room—even though I could probably go into the gym and bench press 425 pounds. Nowadays if I lift weights for several weeks I swell up like a bodybuilder. I have to get my clothing custom made, and it’s expensive, so I’m trying to stay the size that I am now. [Laughs] If my physique changes, I hope it’s on the smaller side so I can buy my clothes off of the rack.


Try these challenging calisthenic-style exercises next time you’re in the gym.

Perform each exercise for 60 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds between sets. Do three rounds total.

1A) Pull up
1B) Inverted shoulder press

2A) Stability ball torso curl
2B) Stability ball back extension

3A) Stability ball single-leg squat
3C) Stability ball supine hamstring curl

JA: We hear that you’re a good golfer too. Do you do anything in particular to stay healthy for golf?

BJ: I go to the gym. I play a lot of golf--that is my sport of choice. But you need more than big muscles to play golf well. [Laughs] Look at Tiger Woods, he is so lean that he has to run around in the shower to get wet. And Tiger hits the ball better and farther than anybody.

JA: What do you do to keep your heart and lungs strong?

BJ: I do a lot of cardiovascular work on the stationary bike as well as some swimming.

JA: Tell us about your training secrets.

BJ: If you’ve got the desire and courage to make yourself better athletically you will get yourself up out of bed everyday to do some type of athletic workout. You need to do something physical each day because it will make you feel so good about yourself before you close your eyes at the end of the day.

I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that states: In order to make yourself better, you’ve got to do things to make yourself feel better. The way I make myself better athletically is by getting up and going to the gym for a good workout—whether I like it or not. That’s how I keep myself feeling young and my body looking good.

In this day and age everybody wants to feel great and look good in his or her clothes. I want to look good in my clothes too. In order to accomplish personal goals and maintain my active lifestyle, I’ve got to get my butt up and go to the gym.

JA: How do you recover after a long day or a tough workout?

BJ: I’ll go home and rest after eating a good meal. I wasn’t then, and I’m still not, the type of person who’s going to stay up all night drinking and partying—I’d rather go home and sleep. My recovery process is simple: If I play 36 holes of golf, I’ll come home, eat dinner, have a glass of wine and relax. And the next day I’ll do it all over again.

JA: What makes you happy?

BJ: If my family is happy, I’m happy. Period. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or the sun is shining. I’m also happy when people treat me the way that I treat others: fairly and with respect.

JA: Where do you see yourself in five years?

BJ: I see myself working harder than I am now—trying to make a measurable difference in this life.

JA: Think of someone you admire--explain why?

BJ: My mother. She raised 10 kids in a three-room house. We were very poor growing up but she did it. I always say that if she could do all of that, and hold down two jobs in the process, my life is simple. If she could be successful in the conditions that she had to endure, I can do it too.

JA: What are the three most important things that you've learned in your life?

BJ: Give respect where respect is due. Never leave a situation or task with any doubt. Always give 100 percent.

JA: How does regular training help you manage the responsibilities of husband and father?

BJ: My job is to set good examples for my kids. If I’m out setting a good example, like being a responsible adult and a smart businessperson, and allowing my kids to see that, hopefully it will rub off on to them in a positive way. My goal is to see my children go to college and be a better businessperson than Dad. I want my kids to accomplish all of their goals—now and in the future.



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