No More Tears: Rickey Jackson Won't Shed Any at Hall Of Fame Induction
It was August 8, 1981, a Saturday night in the Superdome, and the New Orleans Saints were playing the first game of the pre-season against the Baltimore Colts.
Radio play-by-play announcer Wayne Mack kept calling out the name of a rookie linebacker named Rickey Jackson through the scratchy speakers of a Lloyd stereo in my parent's living room.
Rickey Jackson makes the tackle! Rickey Jackson brings down Bert Jones!
The linebacker from Pitt, who played in the shadow of the more highly acclaimed Hugh Green, was hell-bent on proving to the world there was no way he should have lasted until the second round.
Jackson put on quite a show that night for the 46,000 in attendance. He would go on to register eight unofficial sacks as a rookie—one year before the NFL began keep track of quarterback takedowns.
He seemed indestructible in those days—a block of granite in black and gold.
He would begin his workouts in the wee hours of the morning—just about the time when burglars were returning home after a hard night's work with a crowbar and a wedge.
It took ramming his borrowed Corvette into the back of a flatbed truck to finally end his streak of playing in 118 consecutive games. The incident happened a few hours after the Saints handed the Dallas Cowboys a 28-0 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Jimmy Johnson's debut as head coach.
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Jackson would be OK; the same could not be said of the Corvette and the flatbed truck. He missed only two games and played the rest of the year with his jaw wired shut.
He was never a big talker, anyway.
Rickey Jackson would go onto terrorizing opposing quarterbacks in his ten years with the Saints. You could see the fear in those QB's eyes as he bore down on them. He damned near a few of them out of their beards.
He was the leader of the legendary group of Saints linebackers that came to be know as the Dome Patrol comprised of Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling. There was no Ringo in this quartet. Not one weak link. They were all damn good.
"We complimented one another very well and everybody wanted to be good," Jackson told WWL's Bobby Hebert about his brethren in the Dome Patrol. "We got in the weight room and competed. Everybody was trying to compete against one another and get to where they could make plays on the field. Everybody had to really go all out in the weight room and running and conditioning to be the best at your position."
Jackson played in four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1983-86 before departing for the San Francisco 49ers where he would finally win a Super Bowl ring one year before retiring.
Saints GM Jim Finks once said of Jackson, "a very smart player, who never wastes a move or is out of position."
Former Saints head coach Jim Mora said, "In all my years of coaching, Rickey Jackson was as tough of a football player as I've ever coached. All I know is if I was in a dark alley in the corner and I had a group of guys that were trying to whip me that I would want Rickey Jackson on my side."
Bobby Hebert recalled on his radio show how Mora would chide Jackson, "Rickey, now if you sprain your ankle in practice I'm going to have to fine you."
Whether it was practice or a game, Jackson never had to tape his ankles. His thigh pads and knee pads were not official. He wanted to be as light and as mobile as he could be.
"If you went for my legs, I was gonna' ring your bell. I would try to slap your head off really. To have the quickness and the speed I had, if I let you get to my legs, then, something was wrong with that picture," Jackson said on WWL.
"My thing was I was going to really slap your head off if you went that low or I would jump over you to make you look bad. That was what (Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman) Jackie Slater used to try to do because he was afraid of my power so he used to try to cut me and I would jump over him and get to the quarterback and make him look bad."
Jackson finished with 128 sacks in his 15 year career that was third all-time on the list when he retired and still in the top 10.
However, his proudest accomplishment was being one of the game's all-time great tacklers.
"My thing is I made over 1100 tackles (1173) and what other outside linebacker can say they made over 1100 tackles and I caused over 30-something fumbles and recovered 29. You can't name no other linebacker that put up those kind of stats, especially from the strong side. Joe Montana saw me coming. He couldn't see the guys coming from the blind side."
Jackson's still one tough dude so don't expect him to shed any tears when he becomes the first New Orleans Saint inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night in Canton, Ohio.
My daughter wrote me a speech and I read it once," Jackson told WWL Wednesday night. "I'm more of a defensive player and I'll say a little bit but that kind of stuff is for the offensive guys, the softer guys, to get up there and cry and talk and all that."
"It's for me to get up there and talk for three or four minutes and then sit back and look at Jerry (Rice) and Emmitt (Smith) have there show."
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