this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Canton, Ohil -- If there was one thing former New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Rickey Jackson could not tolerate during his pro football career, it was the structure and rigidity of a weekly game plan. Often when Jackson eschewed the ...
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|08-08-2010, 11:03 AM||#1|
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Canton, Ohil -- If there was one thing former New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Rickey Jackson could not tolerate during his pro football career, it was the structure and rigidity of a weekly game plan.
Often when Jackson eschewed the strategies formulated by coaches and took it upon himself to freelance, he was at his best.
After he and presenter Tom Benson on Saturday unveiled Jackson's bronze bust that will rest in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jackson, sans notes, leaning casually on a Lucite podium and wearing a black straw fedora, rambled through his acceptance speech as if he were chasing a quarterback.
Praising his newfound devotion to Christ, his unyielding love for his struggling hometown of Pahokee, Fla., and touting team owner Benson for Hall of Fame consideration if the Saints successfully defend their Super Bowl championship, Jackson extemporaneously touched as many individuals as he could during his remarks as he became the first long-time Saints player to be inducted.
"I think I love my hometown better than anyone in the world; I love my hometown," said Jackson. "I'm from a little town on the lake called Pahokee. We're surrounded by sugar cane and a lot of different vegetables and stuff. What we can do in Pahokee, you can't do in a lot of places. I really love my home town. You can go fish and go hunt, get vegetables. . . . you can live. A lot of places, you can't live. I love my hometown."
Jackson recognized his nine children who joined him in Canton for the ceremony, his father, Van, his sisters, and several high school coaches, including Antoine Russell and Eddie Lee Rhodes.
"They mean a whole lot to me," said Jackson, who also referred to a sign at the Pahokee city limits that welcomed visitors to the city, which was the home of singer Mel Tillis. "I got to be 13, I knew I was going to be a great football player. I always wanted to play football. What enticed me to really play football, we had things going on all the time that you could do wrong if you choose to do wrong. But I wanted my name on that sign. I wasn't going to do anything to mess my career up to keep my name off that sign.
"A lot of my friends, they went the wrong way. I waved my hand to them because I was trying to get my name on that sign."
Jackson also made sure to point out his college coaches at Pittsburgh, citing Jackie Sherrill, as well as former Saints coaches Bum Phillips, his son Wade, and linebackers coach John Paul Young, as well as Jim Mora, who succeeded Phillips, and defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell and linebackers coach Vic Fangio.
"I get up here and see guys around me, and knowing that I think I deserve to be up here, seeing the things I did on the field, football has always been my life," Jackson said. "I see that in these guys here, these Hall of Famers here, seeing how they carry themselves and the love they have for football, we really need to keep football going. Right now, for the NFL, we have to make sure we keep the game what it is today. Don't let it get away."
Jackson, who chose Benson to present him, also pointed out that Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson earned a Hall of Fame spot even though his team didn't win a Super Bowl in four tries.
"My owner went once, and we won," Jackson said. "So if we go back again this year, and we win, I think he should be up for the Hall of Fame. Keeping the Saints in New Orleans, the Saints went through Katrina and now the oil spill, none of that would have been the disaster if they'd lost the Saints. That would have been 10 times worse than all of that. I take my hat off to that.
"He's the one (who) kept the Saints in New Orleans. A lot of teams left in the middle of the night, taking teams to other places. He could have done the same thing some of these other guys did."
Joining Jackson in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2010 were Detroit Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau, Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle John Randle, Washington Redskins guard Russ Grimm, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little and Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.
Jackson's statistics are certainly Hall-of-Fame worthy. At the time of his retirement in 1995, he ranked second in NFL history with 28 recovered fumbles, third in sacks (128) and tied for most fumble recoveries in a season (seven in 1990).
He had eight sacks as a rookie in 1981, which would have given him 136 for a career total, but sacks were not recognized as an official NFL statistic until 1982.
Jackson's total, nonetheless, still ranks 10th in league history.
The 28 fumble recoveries still ranks second all-time, and his 41 forced fumbles still ranks fourth on the all-time list.
It took nearly a decade and a half for Hall of Fame voters, however, to fully appreciate Jackson's contributions as a defensive player who was so adept at every facet of the game. He didn't come off the field, even in the dawn of situational defenses that often substituted players depending upon circumstances.
Jackson was a run defender and a fierce pass rusher, who as a left outside linebacker nearly always rushed facing a right-handed quarterback, as opposed to the blind side, and could also cover backs and tight ends in pass routes. Jackson also played on all the Saints' special teams.
He went to six Pro Bowls and was a four-time All-Pro selection in his 15 NFL seasons, all of those coming during his 13 years with the Saints in which he played in a team-record 195 games, starting every one.
Yet, Jackson's wait for the Hall of Fame wasn't as long as some, such as Little, who retired in 1975, or LeBeau, whose last game was in 1972.
But he had faith he'd make it one day.
"I got into the right church, and it steered me in the right direction," Jackson said, saying he turned to religion to help with the death of his mother, Leila Pearl Jones Lawson. "I can say to all of you, find yourself a church home and make sure you give Christ your life."