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FILE - Former MLB and NFL player Bo Jackson, watches Auburn and Clemson practice before an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Jackson helped pay for the funerals of the 19 children and two teachers killed in the Uvalde school massacre in May. The donation was previously anonymous but Jackson told The Associated Press this week he felt compelled to support the victims' families after the loss of so many children. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Maybe the wrong 1980s Heisman Trophy-winning running back from the Southeastern Conference dressed in a No. 34 jersey is running for national office.

This is in no way meant to throw shade on former University of Georgia great Herschel Walker as he seeks to knock out incumbent U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D) in their Peach State showdown in much the same way he once flattened former Tennessee Vol Bill Bates.

Walker won the Republican primary in a state where President Joe Biden has an approval rating of under 35 percent. Despite his political inexperience, Herschel's longtime football hero status throughout Georgia after leading the Dawgs to the 1980 national title and winning the Heisman in 1982 should give him a legitimate chance to reach Washington, D.C.

But it was another No. 34 — 1985 Heisman winner Bo Jackson of Auburn fame — who stole this past weekend when it was revealed he recently showed the kind of sympathy, empathy and philanthropy this country so desperately needs when he quietly paid $170,000 for the funeral expenses of the 19 children and two adults murdered in the Robb Elementary mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, back on May 24.

"I don't know if it's because I'm getting old," Jackson, a father of three and a grandfather, told the Associated Press a few days ago. "It's just not right for parents to bury their kids. It's just not right. I know every family there probably works their butts off just to do what they do. The last thing they needed was to shell out thousands of dollars for something that never should have happened."

There are acts of violence and cruelty and bigotry going on every day in this country that never should happen. And a single man or woman can't stop all of it. But selfless acts of supreme kindness such as Jackson displayed concerning Uvalde should be celebrated and recognized whenever possible, even if the famous athlete himself waited two months to discuss his involvement.

"We didn't want media, no one knew we were there," Jackson said of Texas governor Greg Abbott's initial reference on May 27 to an anonymous donor providing the money for the funerals.

Added Abbott in speaking with the AP: "The true spirit of our nation is Americans lifting up one another in times of need and hardship. In a truly selfless act, Bo covered all funeral expenses for the victims' families so they would have one less thing to worry about as they grieved."

This wasn't the first time Jackson has come to the aid of those in need in a very big way. When tornadoes ripped through his native state of Alabama in 2011, killing nearly 250 people, Jackson began his Bo Bikes Bama charity bike ride to raise money for the victims. That initial ride, and all that have followed every year since have raised more than $2 million for the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund, which provides disaster preparedness and emergency management resources for the state of Alabama.

Nor is Jackson the only famous coach or athlete making philanthropic headlines these days.

More than seven months after tornadoes ripped apart a number of small towns in western Kentucky, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari is still staging events to raise money for those victims.

Just this past week, NFL superstar defensive lineman J.J. Watt paid for the funeral of Jerry Paul Roderick Sr., who died on June 20, after he learned the man's gradndaughter, Jennifer Simpson, had taken to Twitter to sell her Watt jersey and limited-edition branded sneakers from Watt's playing days with the Houston Texans before he joined the Arizona Cardinals.

Hearing of Simpson's tweet, Watts responded: "Don't sell your shoes and jersey. We'll help with the funeral. I'm sorry for your loss."

A year ago, Watt helped cover funeral costs for victims of the Waukesha parade attack in his home state of Wisconsin.

For Jackson, Uvalde was also personal despite him not knowing anyone in the town. He had often driven through Uvalde, sometimes stopping for a bite to eat or pick up some groceries, on his way to a friend's hunting ranch far to the west.

"Uvalde is a town that sticks in your mind, just the name," Jackson told the AP. "I don't know a soul there. It just touched me."

It has touched us all, at least it should.

Or as Jackson said, his voice cracking each time the word "children" left his lips: "It's the children. It's the children. It's the children. If it doesn't bother you, something's wrong with you."

Where guns are concerned, there's something wrong throughout the whole country, be it mass shootings or individual murders. As Jackson tweeted on the day of the Uvalde shooting: "America let's please stop all the nonsense. Please pray for all victims. If you hear something, say something. We aren't supposed to bury our children. This cannot continue."

But it's something he said of his reasons for raising money for those 2011 Alabama tornado victims that also bears both repeating and practicing.

Said Jackson: "I am my brothers' and sisters' keeper."

It's both uplifting and inspiring to know that Bo knows so much more than sports.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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