The Little Rock Touchdown Club Presents Special Guest Brian Bosworth
By Jeremy Muck
Almost 30 years later, Brian Bosworth regrets his actions after his NCAA suspension from the 1987 Orange Bowl.
Bosworth, a two-time All-American linebacker and Butkus Award winner at Oklahoma, was ruled ineligible for the Orange Bowl in Miami against Arkansas after testing positive for steroids.
At the game, in which Oklahoma routed Arkansas 42-8, Bosworth wore a T-shirt that mocked the NCAA, referring to the organization as “National Communists Against Athletes” and had a phrase “Welcome to Russia” on it as well.
Bosworth, now 51, spoke to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday at the Embassy Suites and told the crowd the suspension was all about him, referring to his “Boz” persona in the 1980s.
“It took away immediately everything good that had happened building my relationship with Oklahoma — the school, the coaches, my teammates, the fans — because of a selfish decision,” an emotional Bosworth said. “Sometimes you don’t understand the impact of your decision. You think it’s funny at the time. It’s not that big of a deal, but it was. That one came out across the United States.
“It breaks my heart that I burned that bridge at that time so unnecessarily. It didn’t matter. That game would have come and gone and we would have moved on. It would have been forgotten. But I had to make a big deal out of it because it was about me.”
Bosworth was then dismissed from Oklahoma and declared himself eligible for the NFL supplemental draft and was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in 1987.
One of Bosworth’s career highlights was the Sooners beating Texas in 1985 en route to winning the national championship. It came one year after Oklahoma had tied Texas 15-15, so beating the Longhorns was a big deal for Bosworth, who recalled an interview he had after the 1984 game.
“We got robbed. I was mad,” Bosworth said. “I was dumb in those days. I didn’t know I had to be politically correct. So the guy asked me if I was a Texas boy. I said, ‘No, I’m an Oklahoma boy.’ I don’t like Texas. That burnt orange makes me want to puke. I can’t stand it.”
Bosworth became a born-again Christian in 2013 and said when the Boz became bigger than himself, he had to make a change in his life.
“Everybody’s journey is different, but it’s very unique in the fact that it all ends the same,” Bosworth said. “It all ends with us asking for Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and save us and guide us, to give us the instructions that we need for us to stop fighting ourselves and be better people.”
Bosworth’s NFL career was cut short in 1989 after two seasons because of a shoulder injury. He’s known for one of the most talked-about plays in NFL history when he was run over by Los Angeles Raiders running back Bo Jackson for a touchdown during a Monday night game at Seattle in 1987.
Both Jackson and Bosworth were recently featured in a Kia commercial together depicting the play. Bosworth has come to terms with the play and calls Jackson a friend today.
“He’s a great guy,” Bosworth said. “That’s the thing about the brotherhood of being football players. We can agree to disagree for 60 minutes and hate each other for 60 minutes. Then we can come back afterwards and be great friends because we know the sacrifices that we’re making. We’re pounding our bodies against each other. We’re doing it because of the pride, the loyalty we have to our schools, the colors we’re wearing and the number we have on our chest.”
Sports on 09/27/2016
Print Headline: Bosworth: ’87 Orange Bowl act ‘selfish’
ESPN 30 For 30 Brian and the Boz
Brian Bosworth is arguably college football’s greatest middle linebacker and one of its most talked about players. He thrived as both a hero and a villain while playing at Oklahoma. Brian says, “It was the internal fight between choosing the selfish road instead of the selfless road. I don’t ever want to go back. There was nothing about that place that was good.”
A place that energized an icon, when 20-year old Brian emerged as The Boz – a brash, flamboyant personality with a disposition and defiance that charged his on-field success.
Brian explains, “To me, “The Boz” is the monster on the field. That’s how I identify with him. He is the alter ego of Brian. “The Boz” was my outlet where I could scream as loud as I wanted to, and needed to.”
What fueled the on-field intensity? Brian remembers, “I was out of control inside. I was a cyclone. I took all of my aggressiveness and my loneliness out on that field because I just had it all pent up and I just wanted to let it explode on anybody that was around me.”
Physicality became his trademark. By his junior year, Brian was the face of Sooner Football and winner of the first two Butkus Awards as the nation’s top college linebacker. He remains the only player ever to have won the accolade more than once. Brian recalls, “Coach Switzer came and screamed in my ear, ‘Brian Bosworth is the best college linebacker in the country.’ Thee defining moment for me! My coaching idol, to respect me on that level was something that I had worked for and dreamed about from the time I was 6 years old.”
Brian grew up spending childhood summers with his grandparents on an Oklahoma farm, in the town of Meeker, Oklahoma — an ironic name – given “The Boz’s” brazen persona. Brian says, “In Meeker, Oklahoma, are some of the most cherished moments to me, calmness, stability and supportive love. My grandfather was very vital in my work ethic and the character that you must have.”
It gave Brian confidence to confront challenge and instilled a necessary reminder that his refugee was never far away saying, “The world was so big, the farm was so big, the cows were so big, the chores were so enormous. But yet, at the end of the day, they were done. That base was already solid inside me. I just had to rediscover it.”
He’d need to! When summers ended, Brian returned to his parent’s house in Texas, a sharp contrast from what he left behind! Brian describes the difference saying, “I wasn’t getting the same signals. I got chaos. I had, [emotional pause] my father just didn’t have the tools. His toolbox was empty. I didn’t get what a son needs so he knows how to grow up. Instead of a conversation, I get beating, you know, and punishment. But no love, no ‘I’m sorry’. I never got that from him.”
Turmoil followed to the field. When the Sooners won the 1985 national championship, Brian the player and Boz the caricature blurred into an inseparable pair. As the hype grew, Brian was banned by the N-C-Double-A for the 1987 Orange Bowl after failing a steroids test. He carried his feud to the sideline, wearing a T-Shirt with a derogatory phrase on national TV. Brian was dismissed from the team. His college career was finished. Brian acknowledges, “It was the biggest regret. It ruined everything that I had built — all the pride that I brought to Coach Switzer. And I stole their moment so that I could scream at somebody or an institution for what I felt was an injustice. And it was just the wrong place to do it. It was the wrong format. It was the wrong message to send. What I thought was the most important window of my life, which was college football, in Oklahoma — and I ruined my own party.”
Brian earned his degree and was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the supplemental draft, signing the largest rookie contract at the time. He started in all 24 games he played before a shoulder injury forced him into early retirement. Brian says, “I wanted to run and die. I went some place and hid and spent the entire decade of the 90’s in just severe pain and I was depressed. I didn’t have any way of looking forward to tomorrow. So I just felt like I have nothing left and there’s no reason to live.”
Desperate, Brian had time to ponder, searching for the source of his rage. There were issues underneath the Boz that fans and spectators saw on the field. How deep did that anger go? Brian explains, “When I’d go on that field I’d just want praise. But at the end of the game I’d never get that – ‘what a great game’, ‘ I’m so proud of you’, you know, this moment is a precious moment. And that’s the thing that really drove me as I got further into my career, its like I’m never going to have a precious moment with my father. I think that’s what I craved and that’s why I lashed out and I think that’s why I rebelled.”
The death of his father was a catalyst in his search for purpose that had roots in a family member’s belief. Brian says, “I had my grandmother who was very faithful to the relationship with Jesus Christ. You know, when you’re a little kid you don’t understand the impact of how that’s going to resonate for the rest of your life. All of my choices were keeping me from human love and from my father’s love. And the only way I’m going to fix that is if I decide to break the chains and get on my knees and finally say ‘I can’t do this by myself and I can’t do it with out you.”
Brian emerged from seclusion as an actor, appearing in several films. He took a role in the faith-based film ‘Revelation Road’ and later in ‘Do You Believe?’, after solidifying his own faith. What does grace and redemption mean to Brian Bosworth?” He says, “Feeling like a failure as a son, as a football player and a failure to the fans. That wasn’t something that I had any ownership of anymore because I gave that to Jesus and He took all that away. This newfound freedom of peace is the gift of being forgiven.”
The linebacker great has uncovered a past to better navigate what’s ahead in this rare odyssey – that’s His! Brian believes, “Once you put yourself in the moral compass of your heart, you create chaos. Jesus Christ is the moral compass of my heart. So every decision I make – give me the instructions that You want me to follow. God, what do you got for me today? What do we get to do today, you know, because it leads me to the One light I want to go home to.”