Meeting Bo Jackson and learning about his new foray into the world of food for this issue’s cover profile was an event to which I looked forward with great anticipation and, yes, some nervousness. He is, after all, a renowned athlete with a prominence that extends well beyond sports.
Even with an injury cutting short his professional sports career, Bo became an incredibly celebrated athlete (See About Bo, page 13), with many sports analysts conjecturing what he could have accomplished had he been able to continue for even a few more years.
But if that had been Bo’s only claim to fame, it is unlikely that his name would be as recognized as it is today; and it is a sure bet that the iconic phrase “Bo Knows” would not elicit the recognition (or the hundreds of thousands of Internet search results) that it does. For those who don’t know, Bo Knows was a Nike campaign of the late ’80s/early ’90s considered to be one of the most genius ad campaigns ever created — quite fitting for the man considered to be ESPN’s Greatest Athlete of All Time. Still today, Bo is in demand commercially, having been featured in AT&T’s “Strongest of the Strong” commercials that most recently aired during the 2016 college football championship games.
With all this notoriety, you would think that Bo would land right in the big leagues in any new business venture. Perhaps it would in some industries, but in food, Bo’s was simply another small business, albeit with a well-recognized name and admittedly more resources than many new businesses. That said, as discussed in this month’s Cover Profile (Bo Knows Meat, page 8), his first foray into food found him to be as susceptible as any to supply-chain and other challenges (such as those discussed in Small Business Success, page 46). But, as in sports and throughout his life, Bo’s experiences provided lessons learned, which he now applies as he selects partners in his growing meat-production business, VEJ Holdings, as evidenced by his hands-on partnership with Two Rivers discussed in the article.
Getting to Know Bo. If I were a feature writer for People, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, or any other star- or sports-focused publication, meeting a renowned celebrity would likely be just another day of reporting. But, while the food industry certainly has incredibly talented and knowledgeable people, few have, or will ever, reach celebrity status. So getting not only an exclusive interview and plant visit with Bo, but also sitting down with him for a dinner of his 34 Reserve Steak, was quite a coup, and quite an event, for this humble food safety writer/editor.
And yet, despite his fame, I would use that same word to describe Bo — humble. As they say in the south, Bo is good people. Not only is he intensely involved with those who make the products that bear his name, he is committed to ensuring its quality, value, and affordability for the average consumer. Bo may not know everything about the production process, he may not be an expert in food safety, but Bo knows food. He knows cooking, he is a stickler for cleanliness and sanitation, and, he won’t put his name on a product (any product) unless he believes in it 100%.
Bo may be known for his sports stats and awards, but he is already making a name in the food industry — and it’s a name from which we all can learn a lesson or two.
The author is Editor of QA magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.