Bo Jackson was born November 30, 1962, in Bessemer, Alabama. He was born Vincent Edward Jackson, the eighth child of Florence Jackson Bond's ten children. His mother was barely able to support her family with her job as a housekeeper, since Jackson's father, A.D. Adams, never wed Florence and in fact had a family of his own on the opposite side of town.
The name Vincent quickly disappeared as Jackson entered adolescence and gained a reputation as a troublemaker. He seemed unable to stay out of trouble, breaking windows, stealing bicycles, and beating up the other kids in the neighborhood. As Jackson wrote in his autobiography, Bo Knows Bo (co-authored with sportswriter Dick Schaap), "I even hired kids to beat up other kids for me [because] I didn't have time to beat all of them up myself." His brothers started calling him a "wild boar," because it was the only animal they felt he compared to. They soon shortened the nickname to "Bo."
Jackson's life as a hoodlum was short-lived, however, when at thirteen he was caught throwing rocks at the Baptist minister's hogs. The boys had killed several of the pigs and the minister made them pay back the loss. Jackson had to take on odd jobs in order to earn his portion of the three thousand dollar loss. His mother, at her
wit's end and unsure of what to do, was encouraged by the preacher to send Jackson to reform school. Jackson realized that he needed to change his ways or be sent away. He decided to focus his attention on sports.
Athletics proved to be what Jackson needed to stay out of trouble. He proved a natural talent at baseball, but he also had an incredible work ethic that allowed him to surpass his peers. At thirteen years old, he had already moved up to the Industrial League in Bessemer, where he played against grown men.