The play I remember best from “Monday Night Football” on Nov. 30, 1987 isn’t the play everyone else likes to remember from that night.
My most memorable moment from that game was Los Angeles Raiders running back Bo Jackson taking a handoff, going off left tackle, breaking one tackle and accelerating like I had never seen from a man his size. It has been 30 years and I’ve still never seen a man that big run that fast.
Watch the clip. Watch for Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley, No. 45. He had the angle. And Bo Jackson ran past Easley like he was standing still. This wasn’t just some random guy that Jackson made look bad — Easley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. And Bo absolutely blew past him. Keep in mind when you watch that white and silver blur down the sideline that Jackson (who turned 55 years old Thursday … if you want to feel old) was 227 pounds. For comparison, the powerful Adrian Peterson is 220.
It’s one of the greatest athletic moments from an athlete who many will say is the greatest pure athlete they have seen. And yes, people remember that play too, mostly because of the dash into the tunnel. But that’s not why you’re here.
Everyone remembers that night for the moment that Jackson took a goal-line handoff and was isolated with Seattle linebacker Brian Bosworth. At that moment 30 years ago, Jackson and Bosworth were two of the most famous athletes alive. Bo was a curiosity because he was a Heisman Trophy winner who went on to play Major League Baseball, but famously said he also wanted to play for the Raiders as “a hobby.” “The Boz” was one of the best linebackers college football had ever seen, but Bosworth was famous because he was one of the most fearless, most outlandish characters in sports. He was a master of self-promotion. It was hard to hate Jackson. It was easy to hate Bosworth.
And Bo ran him over at the goal line for a touchdown.
The play has been exaggerated and embellished through the years. Sure, Jackson ran through him, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. But this was Bo meeting “The Boz.” And Jackson did run over him like he wasn’t there. It was quite the impressive display of power, after we had already seen his speed on that 91-yard run. And everyone loved seeing Bosworth get his comeuppance.
There was even a car commercial last year, centered around the fantastic old Nintendo game “Tecmo Super Bowl” and the Bo vs. Boz play.
There’s no question that play is one of the four or five most enduring of Jackson’s too-short athletic career (him running up the center-field wall in Baltimore, going over the top to beat Alabama in 1982 and his monster All-Star Game home run in 1989 have to be on that list too). It was just Jackson’s fifth career NFL game and because it was on “Monday Night Football,” it was the first chance a huge audience got to watch him with the Raiders (NFL Sunday Ticket hasn’t always existed, kids).
It’s also, without question, the most enduring play from Bosworth’s NFL career, which ended too soon because of shoulder issues. It’s probably fair to say that game 30 years ago, with Jackson running for 221 yards, is one of the 10 or so most famous “Monday Night Football” games, even though the Raiders won 37-14. If you’re of a certain age and were a football fan in 1987, you recall that play. Everyone does.
That game and that play live on because of Bo Jackson’s greatness, and Brian Bosworth’s infamy. It’s hard to imagine a single play from a regular-season NFL game ever generating that kind of hype again. It has been 30 years, and we still remember it like it was yesterday.
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