|Class of 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Jackson earned six trips to the Pro Bowl during his 15-year career.|
Rickey Jackson grew up in Pahokee, Fla. in a single-parent household. The family lived in a trailer and made money by chasing rabbits out of the sugar cane fields. They would get paid one dollar for each of the rabbits they caught. Now the going rate is five dollars per rabbit, according to Jackson.
He was not a highly-recruited football player coming out of high school. He was a three-star recruit, rather than a four- or five-star prospect, and was actually a better basketball player in high school than a football player.
Defensive end Hugh Green was in Jackson's freshman class at the University of Pittsburgh, and together, the two dominated. Green would always play the weak side end, while Jackson would play the strong side end. Jackson was in Green's shadow with the Panthers, but made a lot of tackles because teams always ran away from Green's side and toward Jackson.
Jackson was a very mature person, even in college, and looked like a Greek god. He was very well put together, and had an amazing muscular build. He was dominant, because at the time, offensive tackles were bigger, slower and heavy legged. Jackson's fast, explosive frame proved too much for those offensive linemen to handle.
To put in perspective how good that Pitt team was, Chris Doleman and Bill Maas were both backups on the team.
After his senior year, Jackson was the Defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game. He was basically an unblockable guy because he was so quick, strong and more athletic than the men trying to block him.
One thing he had to overcome was his Florida accent. Pahokee is a transient area with people coming to work on the sugar fields, and he used a lot of slang that not even his teammates could understand. He eventually overcame this impediment, however, and is now back in Pahokee as a minister and TV show host. His sermons are televised every Sunday and Monday night.
Over his 15-year career, Jackson accumulated 128 sacks. But the league didn't count sacks in his rookie year of 1981, so that number should really be higher. Unofficially, he had 40 forced fumbles in his career. While that's not a verifiable stat, it's believed that's the highest of all time.
When the Cowboys faced him, he was really a force. They played him five or six times and he was a serious problem to contend with, not because of his size -- he was small -- but because he was extremely powerful. He went hard on every down, no matter the score.
He closed out the final two years of his career in San Francisco, where he won a Super Bowl ring in 1994. The 49ers originally signed him to be a pass-rush specialist, but he was so good at rushing the passer, they just kept him on the field.
This is the kind of player that really deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Through most of his career, Jackson didn't get the recognition he deserved because he played in New Orleans.
In 1987, the Saints played a 3-4 scheme. Of Vaughan Johnson, Sam Mills, Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson, it was Jackson who was the guy the Cowboys really thought they had to block. Swilling had an exceptional run with the Saints, but he probably owes a lot of that success to Jackson.
He's just a really nice person, and represents the state of Florida in a great way.
In college, one of Jackson's summer jobs was making sure that the lawn belonging to Pittsburgh coach Jackie Sherrill was manicured.
Sherrill will be in Canton to support Jackson and his fellow University of Pittsburgh alum Russ Grimm. This is only the second time in history that two players will be inducted from one school in the same year. Ollie Matson and Gino Marchetti were both inducted in 1972 from the University of San Francisco.