The 51st winner of the Heisman Trophy, Auburn's great running back Bo Jackson, is such a remarkable all-round athlete that, if there were Heisman awards in baseball and track, he would almost certainly have won them, too. As the nation's premier ball carrier, Jackson was the spearhead of Auburn's return to football prominence. Under the inspired direction of Coach Pat Dye, the school has produced the best teams since the national championship days of 1957, when the revered Ralph "Shug" Jordan coached the Tigers to first place in the Associated Press poll. Jackson was the second Auburn football star to win the Heisman Trophy. In 1971, quarterback Pat Sullivan took the prize.
During his time playing for the Auburn Tigers football team, he ran for 4,303 career yards, which was the fourth best performance in SEC history. Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards (6.0 m) per carry, which set the SEC record (minimum 400 rushes).
In 1982, Jackson's freshman year, Auburn played Boston College in the Tangerine Bowl, where Jackson made a one-handed grab off an option pitch. Auburn went on to win the game 33-26.
In 1983, as a sophomore, Jackson rushed for 1,213 yards on 158 carries, for an average of 7 yards per carry, which was the 2nd best single-season average in SEC history (min. 100 rushes). In the 1983 Auburn-Alabama game, Jackson rushed for 256 yards on 20 rushes (12.8 yards per carry), which at the time was the sixth-most rushing yards gained in a game in SEC history and the 2nd best yard-per-rush average in a game (min. 20 attempts) in SEC history. Auburn finished the season by winning the Sugar Bowl, where Jackson was named Most Valuable Player. In 1984, Jackson's junior year (most of which Jackson missed due to injury), he earned Most Valuable Player honors at Liberty Bowl.
In 1985, Jackson rushed for 1786 yards which was the second best single-season performance in SEC history. That year, he averaged 6.4 yards per rush, which at the time was the best single-season average in SEC history. For his performance in 1985, Jackson was awarded the Heisman Trophy in what was considered the closest margin of victory ever in the history of the award, winning over University of Iowa Quarterback Chuck Long.
Jackson finished his career at Auburn with 4,575 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns, with a 6.6 yards per carry average. Jackson's football number 34 was officially retired at Auburn in a halftime ceremony on October 31, 1992. His is one of only three numbers retired at Auburn, the others being 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's number 7, and Sullivan's teammate and favorite receiver, Terry Beasley (88).
This was the closest of all Heisman Trophy votes as only 45 points separated the winners, Auburn running back Bo Jackson, from the runner-up, Iowa quarterback Chuck Long. Each player won three sections and finished second in the section he did not win.