by TINA DESALVO CALLAIS

Mr. Saints. He wore No. 57 trimmed in black and gold, sacked QBs when his Dome Patrol hit the field, gained recognition as a 6-time Pro Bowler, earned a Super Bowl XXIX ring as a 49er and entered the Saints Hall of Fame in 1997. In August, Rickey Jackson will join the short list of inductees into the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.

At 52, Rickey has earned all these titles, but that’s not all. He’s also a businessman, deacon, father and friend of Houma and the bayou region.

“I started coming to Houma back in the ’80s after Monday Night Football,” Rickey said over a quiet lunch at Ellendale Country Club. “I’d go to restaurants and places [in New Orleans] and meet people from Houma who’d come to the game. They’d invite me to Houma to play golf. I’d come every chance I got.”

The football giant with an astonishing 128 NFL career sacks has genuine affection for the area.

“I really like Houma,” he said. “It’s a quiet, peaceful town. The crime down here isn’t like in the city. There’s a quiet nightlife when you go out, too. Everybody knows who I am, but they don’t mess with me. I want to be with good, hard-working people and stay away from all that other foolishness.”

And the people of Terrebonne and Lafourche like Rickey. His visits to the area aren’t just to play golf and make public appearances. He is an entrepreneur who operates his own fuel-supply business, Mr. Saints #57 Petroleum Co.

Outside the business, Rickey spends much of his time doing charitable work. He considers it a way for professional athletes to give back to their communities. The former Pro Bowler focuses on his Friends Forever Foundation, whose goal is to keep kids focused and active in an effort to help them make smart decisions in life.

“We started it in the ’80s,” Rickey said about the foundation’s origin. “Over the years we’ve given scholarships to high school seniors in Florida and Louisiana. We’re also working to put in playground equipment and build up some parks.”

One of the ways the foundation raises money is with a celebrity gala and golf tournament held at the Tournament Players Club in June. The roster Rickey brings in for the tournament reads like a Who’s Who A-list of professional athletes.

“Yeah, Dan Marino is coming,” he said. “So is Mark Duper, Hugh Green, Eric Dickerson, Chris Paul, Michael Lewis, Dalton Hilliard, Pat Swilling, Vaughn Johnson and others.”

Vaughn Johnson and Pat Swilling are two of the original Saints players, along with Rickey and the late Sam Mills, who in 1987 formed the famed Dome Patrol, a linebacker corps deemed the best in NFL history.

“He had it all,” said Jim Mora, who coached the Dome Patrol, about Rickey’s talent. “He was tough against the run. He could cover the pass, and he could rush the passer. You could depend upon him every week for giving his best effort. He was tough as nails ... a good team leader. He was just one heck of a player.”

The respect and admiration Rickey earned from coaches and fellow players have not gone unnoticed. Mr. Saints has been signing a lot of autographs since being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010.

“I’ve been eligible for 10 years, but I knew it had to be God’s timing, not mine,” Rickey said. “I’m more satisfied with the way it happened.”

In February, Rickey stood on Sun Life Stadium’s 50-yard-line before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLIV, just as the stadium pulsated in a thrilling rhythm of black and gold.

“I looked at Jerry [Rice] and Emmitt [Smith] next to me,” Rickey said, grinning. “I knew they’d get loads of cheers. But I knew the Who Dats would holler, too. I just didn’t realize how much the Who Dats would stand up for me. It made me feel real good. Real good.”

Rickey left the game in 1995 after 13 seasons with the Saints and two with the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he won his only Super Bowl ring.

“I only left the Saints because it was something I had to do when
the Dome Patrol broke up and they wanted to get younger players in,” the former linebacker said. “I had to go get my Super Bowl somewhere else.”

After retiring, Rickey moved back to his hometown of Pahokee, Fla.,
a town he likened to Houma.

“That’s where all my family is,” he said. “I stayed six years. I got back in church, the Bible Church of God. It’s Pentecostal. When I got back to church, it was to find myself and get back into leadership and to learn God’s way.”

It was during this time that he became a deacon in his church.

“Before you get into the world, you need to see what God wants and get right with Him,” Rickey continued. “If you do it Christ’s way and
do it right, doors will open.”

Jim Mora, former New Orleans Saints head coach: “I’m very happy for Rickey. It’s a well deserved honor. He had a great career. He’s a great football player. I enjoyed coaching him.”

As if on cue, Rickey’s phone rings.

“It’s Rickeyah,” he smiled with fatherly pride. “She’s 25. I have six children. They all have names with Rickey in them. There’s Rickey, Rickeyah, Rickeem, Rashad, Rickeyvis and Tyler Rickey. They all want to be athletes, but I teach them that sports isn’t for everyone. I tell them just like my dad and momma did things I didn’t want, I figure it’s the same for them. All I want is for them to be successful.”

For now, Rickey is excited about bringing his family to Canton, Ohio, where he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 7. When he walks into the packed ballroom to take his place in NFL history, the former Dome Patrolman plans to enter as a Saint.

“After 13 years with New Orleans, that’s where my legacy is at,” Rickey said.

   

Rickey Jackson’s Friends Forever Foundation Web site:
rickeyjacksonfriendsforever.webs.com

 

Copied from the July, 2010 Edition of the Point of View Houma Magazine