The worst draft pick in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history is not Roberto Aguayo, and not just because Aguayo actually had a pretty good second half of the season. It’s because no one can ever beat the awful decision to draft Bo Jackson in 1986.
Despite the fact that Jackson is a legendary football player and they used the first overall pick of the 1986 NFL draft, he never played a down for the Bucs. And all because then-owner Hugh Culverhouse screwed him over.
That’s been known for years, but he reaffirmed that story in an interview with USA Today, in which he also said that he wouldn’t play football again if he knew then what he knows now about head injuries.
“Their (the Tampa Bay Bucaneers’) people said they were looking out for me, and checked with the NCAA that it was OK for me to go on their plane for that physical,’’ Jackson says, “but nobody checked it out. Well, I put two and two together, and figured it out. They knew I was a first-round pick in football, but they wanted to get me away from baseball, so they got me ruled ineligible. I’m 100% convinced of that. They thought that would make me forget baseball
“I told myself, “All right, if you screw me, I’m going to screw you twice as hard.’ If anybody else had drafted me, I would have gone, but I wasn’t going to play for that man.”
That’s all pretty understandable. By all accounts, Culverhouse was a cheap, abrasive owner who cared not a whit about his players. And that man thought he could manipulate Jackson into playing for him. Well, Jackson sure showed him — and the Bucs wouldn’t have a winning season for a decade after they attempted to draft him.
And Jackson could see how Culverhouse was going to treat him. Pretty accurately, I’d say.
“People thought I was crazy, but it was just morals. If you screw me over like that, and I’m not part of a team yet, just think what they’d do to me under contract. I couldn’t do that. I needed the money. I was as poor as a Mississippi outhouse. I needed that money. But I couldn’t play for that man.
“I also observed the way they were treating people. The fact the owners kept calling the players, “These are my boys.’ Their wives were doing the same thing.’ I couldn’t go there. I always believed that if you don’t believe in yourself, and stand for what you believe is right, who else is going to have faith in you?’’
Instead of playing for the Bucs, Jackson sat out the 1986 season, dedicated himself to baseball, and then went into the draft again the year after. He became a late-round pick for the Oakland Raiders, playing half-seasons for them until his retirement in 1991 while continuing his baseball career.
Jackson had a pretty good career, and I don’t think there’s a lot of hard feelings toward Jackson in the Tampa Bay area these days. Culverhouse was a terrible, cheap owner who pulled an awful move, and it backfired. Rightly so. While we can gripe about the Glazers for plenty of reasons, at least they never pulled a move like this.