The Health Condition That Led To Bo Jackson's Unique Speech Patterns

Bo Jackson is known as one of the great American multiple-sport athletes, per Britannica. He famously played baseball and football in the professional MLB and NFL leagues, at the same exact time in the 1980s. Jackson became a fan favorite with his gravity-defying run up a back wall to catch a baseball (via YouTube) or delivering an incredibly fast throw in the 10th inning of a game against the Royals (per Major League Baseball). However, Bo Jackson had a lifelong health condition that caused him anguish at first, according to The Stuttering Foundation. But over time, he learned to embrace his unique way of speaking.

Jackson was mocked for his stutter when he was a child. He grew up with nine siblings, and two of his sisters also stuttered when speaking. (The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that there is evidence that stuttering runs in families; four different genes have been identified in which mutations are associated with stuttering.) Still, Jackson was incredibly self-conscious of his speech pattern. He was completely terrified by all kinds of public speaking, even in the classroom — he never raised his hand to answer questions. Then, as he attended college at Auburn University and began his athletic career, he never went to TV interviews, because he was afraid of being on camera.

His new way of speaking inspires others

Bo Jackson's college wanted to help him embrace his speech patterns and be more comfortable in his growing spotlight, according to Yahoo! Sports. Jackson got in contact with a linguistic therapist, who helped him reframe his speaking patterns to avoid stutters before they started. One of the therapist's tips was to refer to himself as "Bo," instead of "I," since saying "I" could cause him to start stammering (per

As a result, Bo Jackson almost exclusively referred to himself in the third person — so he might say about himself, "Bo went there" instead of saying "I went there." According to ESPN, he simply adapted his speech pattern to this more comfortable way of speaking. Jackson then took a public speaking course, an undertaking that was terrifying to him. Becoming comfortable in the public eye was a necessary step in his professional development.

His way of referring to himself really inspired other people. Other athletes copied him; he sounded grandiose as he referred to himself in the third person.

The 'Bo Knows' campaign that enhanced a sports legend

This speech pattern actually launched a behemoth Nike commercial campaign with the slogan, "Bo Knows," per Yahoo! Sports. Instead of ignoring or hiding Jackson's speech differences, they embraced them and incorporated them into his advertisement. Planes flew banners that read "Bo Knows Football," and "Bo Knows Baseball," then these slogans quickly became viral marketing ads on television. The phrase has become one of the most widely known advertising campaigns ever created, for the sports player who could seemingly do it all. Jackson even named his 1990 memoir "Bo Knows Bo: The Autobiography of a Ballplayer" after the catchphrase.

Today, Jackson does refer to himself in the first person, but mainly when he is speaking slowly and carefully to counteract his stutter. He even gave a commencement speech at his alma mater, Auburn University, in 2009. According to Yahoo! Sports, he said to the crowd of those about to graduate, "I knew that if I didn't conquer my fear of standing in front of people like you to speak, that I couldn't get to where I wanted to go."