Several months ago, I wrote that former Saints (and 49ers) linebacker Rickey Jackson deserved to be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Now, finally, he at least has been named a semi-finalist. The man is second all-time in fumble rcoveries, 10th all-time in sacks (and would be higher, but sacks were not an official stat during his first year in the league), way up high in tackels, good on interceptions for a LB, won a Super Bowl ring as a starter, and was a six-time Pro Bowler and would have made even more Pro Bowls if he weren’t competing for votes with three top teammates at the same position. (In a number of those years, he made the “all-Madden” team, which is to my mind a better barometer sometimes than that of the players voting for the Pro Bowl, as the players don’t get to watch all the other games while they are playing in them.) Lots of other people agree that Jackson should be in the Hall.
Seven people can get inducted. My votes would go to Jackson, Ray Guy (as the first punter to so clearly outclass all his competitors that he was a huge strategic and tactical asset for his team), Aeneas Williams (8-time Pro Bowl DB), Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice (no explanations needed for those two), and then I would have a terrible time choosing among the following for the last two spots this year: OL Russ Grimm, WR Tim Brown, WR Cris Carter, DB Lester Hayes, DL Richard Dent, DL Charles Haley, TE Shannon Sharpe. If I were FORCED to choose, I would go with Tim Brown (barely over Cris Carter, a contemporary with not quite as many yards receiving and without the added benefit of being a great kick and punt returner), and with Russ Grimm because he was the leader of one of the best offensive lines in history, the Redskins’ “Hogs,” none of whom have received the credit due them. I do, however, think that Dent, Haley, Sharpe, and Carter SHOULD be in the Hall eventually, with Hayes , Cortez Kennedy, Chris Doleman, and Dermontti Dawson and all probably deserving as well….
But back to Rickey Jackson. The man played LEFT outside LB. He had as many sacks as LT, and LT was rushing from the blind side, the easier side. Jackson got his sacks while the QB was looking at him. And Jackson, unlike LT, also was great dropping into pass coverage and also playing every down against the run. And he was a leader in the locker room, a guy who EVERYBODY looked up to. Ask fellow Saints all-Pro LB Pat Swilling, later a state legislator, what he thinks of Jackson: Hall of Fame, all the way. As for me, all things considered, I would choose Jackson as the single player I would choose, all-time, to build my defense around, if I wanted a team to last ten years. The man never missed games due to injury, never made excuses, never dogged it, never let up. He deserves to be in the Hall.