Aug. 20, 2014
In any order, Frank Thomas, left, Bo Jackson, center and Charles Barkley began their legendary careers at Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Charles Barkley has done everything, been everywhere, said crazy things.
But on Nov. 30, 2013, Barkley was back at his school and was on an important assignment. Charles Barkley, Auburn basketball legend, was asked to speak to the Auburn football team before the Iron Bowl.
"This is one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life," he told the team. "I want to thank you for one of the great seasons in Auburn history.
"When y'all win today… y'all are going to play for the SEC Championship. I want to thank y'all."
And the Auburn football team rewarded Barkley's faith by winning on the last play, opening the door for another Auburn legend to talk to the team in the same locker room that Barkley had left just hours earlier.
"Let's get this fight song started," Bo Jackson said. "Y'all ready? 1-2-3... War Eagle, fly down the field..." And the players sung the fight song, and Auburn celebrated the victory.
"Bo, Barkley and The Big Hurt" will take you through all of this when it debuts at 8 p.m. Central, with a command performance at 11, Thursday on the SEC Network. It's on at 6 a.m. Friday, too. The show takes you through the here and now, and the life and times of Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley and Frank Thomas, the three gifted athletes who came together, or almost, at Auburn in the 1980s on the way to college greatness and Hall of Fame careers. They are credited with helping turn Auburn's fortunes around.
They, in turn, talk of the school they say they love. If you don't know Bo, or Charles or Frank, you might know now.
Hal Baird knows. A student of the game, and of athletics, he was Auburn's successful baseball coach from 1985-2000, and coached Jackson and Thomas and followed Barkley. He can put everything in context.
"If you love sports, to have the opportunity to see an all-time NBA all-star, a Top 50 player in the history of the game; maybe the greatest athlete who ever lived in Bo Jackson in two sports; and then a major league Hall of Famer, you're looking at athletes at the very top of the professional game at one institution. I'm not aware of anything that has rival that," Baird says in the show.
Or, as the voice-over says, "A trio of freak athletes that has rarely been matched in the annals of college sports."
Jackson won the Heisman, played major league baseball and professional football. Thomas was recently inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. Barkley was of the great NBA players of all time. Bo, Barkley and The Big Hurt talks of all the big things they did for Auburn.
Their careers are detailed, often around the Iron Bowl, whether the Bo Over the Top victory, or the most recent one last year in Jordan-Hare Stadium, with the great crowd shot, with Rod Bramblett's great call, when they came together on the sidelines.
"The big three would once again taste magic on the Auburn campus…" the voice says.
These three athletes, who had done so much for so long, were fans again.
"I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen 50,000 fans on the field at the end of the game," Thomas says.
"That's the greatest sporting event I've ever been a part of because of what the game meant to Auburn as a team, what it meant to us being from the state of Alabama," Jackson says.
That was Bo, Barkley and The Big Hurt as Auburn fans. The show reminds us of how they came to Auburn, and what they meant to Auburn.
Barkley talked of being the Round Mount of Rebound.
"When you're a big guy who can dribble, it's a tremendous advantage," Barkley says.
"When he came down the lane, nobody got in his way," Jackson said.
Jackson remembered his recruitment. Alabama was the first to drop by his home, saying he would maybe start in his junior year, maybe at the end of his sophomore year.
Jackson thoughts? "You've got to be out of your mind."
The next week Pat Dye dropped in saying this: "If you tell me you're going to commit to Auburn, I will make sure I give you every opportunity on the planet to be the starting running back beginning next season."
Dye told him he could play as a freshman.
"He could have played for us as a senior in high school," Dye joked.
Soon enough, Bo went over the top and beat Alabama.
"That team gave the Auburn fans hope again," Jackson said.
"He was," Dye said, "the difference."
Jackson played baseball for Baird, of course. And so would another two-sport hopeful in Thomas, who played a year at tight end, and three years as a slugger. An injury helped him decide to concentrate on baseball, but only after Dye gave his blessings.
Now, Jackson, Barkley and Thomas are Auburn legends.
"Every time I see Bo and Frank, it's like seeing a family member," said Barkley "Obviously, Bo's greatness and Frank's greatness, every time I see those guys it's always special."
Thomas smiled of the stars aligning for them to be together, of "a time and era that changed our university forever."
Jackson summed it up this way:
"We are," he said, "forever family."
The promo to Bo, Barkley and The Big Hurt...
Charles Goldberg is the Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine