One of the greatest pure athletes of all time made a shocking admission about the sport that helped put him on the map.

Bo Jackson, a two-sport star who flourished in Major League Baseball and the NFL, admitted in an interview with USA TODAY Sports he wouldn’t have put on pads had he been aware of the health risks associated with football.

“If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football,” Jackson told USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale. “Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.”

Recent research has shed a frightening light on the connection between head trauma in football and long-term brain disease, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), dementia and severe depression. The suicides of several former NFL players, including linebacker Junior Seau, have been linked to brain injuries they suffered playing football, and recently-retired players have begun to speak out about the symptoms they’re dealing with now.

Jackson’s promising NFL career lasted just four seasons after he suffered a devastating hip injury in 1991. And despite all his success on the gridiron, both as a Heisman Trophy-winning running back at Auburn and a breakout star on the Oakland Raiders, he’d avoid it all if given a second chance. That conviction holds true for his children, too.

“The game has gotten so violent, so rough,” Jackson said. “We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff, there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today.”

“Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football. I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.'”

Thumbnail photo via Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports Images