Bo Jackson continues stellar run of Athens Chamber speakers

Former Auburn running back Bo Jackson, who starred as a Kansas City Royals outfielder and in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, will be the featured speaker June 9 at the annual Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Benefit Dinner. (Photo courtesy of Athens Area Chamber of Commerce)

There is only one person in the history of this planet to earn an opportunity to compete in Major League Baseball's All-Star game and the NFL's Pro Bowl.

That person, who also won a Heisman Trophy, soon will be speaking near Chattanooga.

photo Rob Preston (Photo courtesy of Athens Area Chamber of Commerce)

Former Auburn University and Oakland Raiders running back and former Kansas City Royals outfielder Bo Jackson will be the featured speaker June 9 inside the McMinn County High School gym at the 12th annual Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Benefit Dinner. In 2013, ESPN used a series of metrics by its Sports Science team and named Jackson, who battled stuttering as a child and had his dual-sport career cut short by a hip injury, as its "Greatest Athlete of All-Time."

"I always want to bring in a speaker who can motivate listeners, and I love someone who can talk about how they've overcome adversity in their life," Athens Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rob Preston said Monday. "Bo Jackson has been through all kinds of adversity and has come back from it, and I thought our audience could really draw something from that.

"He's got a very motivational story to tell."

Jackson, 55, rushed for 4,303 yards in his four seasons at Auburn from 1982 to 1985, and his 6.62 yards per carry throughout his career remains a Southeastern Conference record. The Tigers won the SEC championship in 1983, which was the program's first since its 1957 national championship season, and he won the Heisman as a senior in 1985.

Bringing familiar SEC faces to McMinn County is nothing new for Preston, whose featured speakers in recent years have included former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (2016), former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning (2015), former Georgia running back Herschel Walker (2014) and current Alabama football coach Nick Saban (2013).

Preston said Manning's visit drew the largest crowd at roughly 3,500. Saban drew 1,500, but that year's event was held outdoors due to gym construction, and the audience had to be capped.

Steve Spurrier and Pete Rose have been featured speakers at the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce event, as have Lou Ferrigno, the actor who starred in "The Incredible Hulk," and contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant, who was last year's guest.

"Amy Grant has been through a lot of adversity as well, and I think our audience got a lot out of her telling her story and from her singing some songs," Preston said. "I'm a big sports fan and often go with sports figures first, but she did a fantastic job."

Tickets to this year's event are $25 for the program and $50 for the program and dinner. They can be purchased by calling 423-745-0334 or by going online to

Preston, a Red Bank High School and East Tennessee State graduate, often lands his featured speakers more than a year in advance.

"It takes a lot of planning," he said, "and sometimes you just have to luck out."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.