- Associated Press - Thursday, August 5, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Rickey Jackson’s fearsome pass rush rarely came from the blind side.

Quarterbacks usually saw the “City Champ” coming, and many still couldn’t escape his grasp.

Election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame proved somewhat more elusive for the former Saints left outside linebacker, who was the cornerstone of New Orleans’ famed “Dome Patrol” of the late 1980s and early 90s.

On Saturday, 15 years after his retirement, Jackson will at last join contemporaries like Lawrence Taylor and Andre Tippett, who have already been immortalized in Canton, Ohio.

“I felt for a long time that the best strongside linebacker wasn’t in the Hall of Fame,” Jackson said of himself _ and in deference to Taylor, his longtime friend who played on the right side, which is also the blind side for right-handed quarterbacks.

“But I look back at it,” Jackson continued, “and say if I would have gone in (earlier), there would have been probably other stuff overshadowing me going in.”

Rather than echoing Saints fans’ bitterness about how long it took him to be elected to the Hall, Jackson said he’s thankful to be celebrating his induction at a time when his personal life is straightened out and his adopted hometown is basking in the glow of his old team’s first Super Bowl title.

As recently as August 2007, Jackson was listed by the Louisiana Office of Family Support as the state’s No. 1 delinquent dad, owing nearly $160,000 in child support. Now, he no longer appears on the agency’s list. He talks of being more committed to his family and his faith, and of being in a better place personally than he has been in years.

“You have to look at everything as God’s timing,” Jackson said. “With the stuff I had to go through, He took care of moving all that out of the way, gave the Saints the world championship and gave me” election to the Hall of Fame.

Still, his old teammates say Jackson’s recognition in Canton is long overdue.

“We always knew he deserved to be in,” said former Saints right outside linebacker Pat Swilling, a member of the Dome Patrol along with linebackers Vaughn Johnson and the late Sam Mills. “When the Saints made this (Super Bowl) run, it put pressure on voters around the country to give us our due. Ricky should have been in the Hall five years ago. The timing is finally right for him and I’m excited. All the Saints who played with him are excited about this as much as he is.”

Jackson played 15 seasons in the NFL, his first 13 with the Saints, making him the first Hall of Fame inductee to have spent the majority of his career in New Orleans.

When he retired, he’d been chosen first-team All Pro four times (second team twice) and his 128 sacks ranked third all-time. His sack total did not include the eight sacks Saints officials say he had his rookie season, a year before the NFL began recording sacks as statistics. After each sack, Jackson would tuck his elbow next to his No. 57 jersey and pump his fist.

While he was known for sacks, Jackson was an all-around, every-down defender, as former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert recalled.

“People don’t realize how good his coverage skills were,” Hebert said. “He’d cover a running back coming out of the backfield or come up and blow up a screen.

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