Jackson Gets The Hall Call

As a rush end for the Pitt football team, Rickey Jackson harassed opposing quarterbacks throughout his career with the Panthers from 1977-80.

When Rickey Jackson moved on to the New Orleans Saints, he did the same thing to NFL quarterbacks that he did for Pittsburgh.

Jackson finally was recognized for his efforts in a lengthy NFL career by selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with another former Panthers player, Russ Grimm, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, John Randle, Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little.

"I would like to be remembered as a hard-nosed player, a guy who came to New Orleans who brought defense there, smash-mouth defense, who came here to turn things around and not let people run all over the Saints,'' Jackson said. "I think I accomplished that. And I think it's still going today.''

Former Saints coach Bum Phillips drafted Jackson in the second round in the 1981 NFL Draft.

"He was an outstanding player,'' former Saints coach Bum Phillips said. "He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.''

Jackson joined the late Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling on the famed Dome Patrol, who some regarded as the best linebacking corps ever on one team.

"He was the total package,'' former coach Jim Mora said. "There was nothing he couldn't do. You couldn't say he could do this but not do that. He could rush the passer. He could play the run. He could drop into coverage. He could do all those things.''

Johnson believed that Jackson was a perfect fit for the Saints' defense.

"The thing about the position Rick played, he played generally to the right side of the quarterback,'' Johnson said. "The quarterback saw him coming. With Pat, he was coming from the back side.

"So the quarterback didn't see him coming. For Rickey to get all those sacks, looking in the eyes of the quarterback, where he could get rid of the ball, that's a tremendous feat right there.''

The Saints' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach during Jackson's tenure was Steve Sidwell.

"Well, I mean he's the best player I've ever coached personally,'' Sidwell said. "He and Andre Tippett are cut out of the same cloth, and Andre got in (the Hall of Fame) last year. They bring many of the same qualities to the table.''

During his 15-year NFL career, Jackson accumulated 128 sacks, and when he retired after the 1995 season, he was third on the all-time list. He's now in the top 10. He recovered 28 fumbles, second-most in NFL history and forced 41, fourth all time. He broke up 118 passes.

After the Saints withdrew their contract offer to Jackson in 1994, he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, became a starting defensive end, and won a ring in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers in Miami.

Four times Jackson was named an All-Pro, six times he went to the Pro Bowl and in his final seven seasons with the Saints, New Orleans never had a losing season, going to four postseason games and winning the club's first division championship in 1991.

Jackson played in 227 games, every one a start, missing just two in his career when he was injured in a Sept. 11, 1989, automobile accident in which he fractured his right cheekbone. He was expected initially to miss four to six weeks. After a 3½-hour surgery to place a metal plate in his face to repair the damage, Jackson was on the practice field seven days later.

"You could always count on Rickey," Mora said. "He was in practice every day. He was hardly ever hurt. The only time he was hurt was when he had the car accident. That, to me, was Rickey Jackson.

"He was going to be there every week. Not just on Sunday, but every day for practice. He was always going to be there and always played well. He never played poorly. You could count on him to be there every day, every week, and play hard and play good.''

Grimm and Jackson are the fifth and sixth players from Pitt selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They join former Panthers teammate and quarterback Dan Marino. Other Panthers in the Hall are halfback Tony Dorsett, tight end Mike Ditka and linebacker Joe Schmidt.

The new class will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. at Fawcett Stadium.

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