It’s only fitting that Jackson and Grimm enter the Hall together. Like Grimm, Jackson was a part of those special 1979 and 1980 Pittsburgh Panthers football teams. Like Grimm, he was an All-American at Pitt and was drafted in 1981. And like Grimm, he went onto a stellar pro career.
Jackson never made any secret as to why he went to Pitt, but many probably don’t know that he almost didn’t come to the school:
Rickey chose to become a member of the Hurricanes. "I was recruited by all of the Florida schools. I signed a letter of intent with Miami. I could have went anywhere. When I signed with Miami, they weren’t winning anything. I changed my mind.
I chose Pitt because they were the national champions with Tony Dorsett and they went undefeated. They were on TV all the time. They were winning. Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy." Pittsburgh won the national championship in 1976.
Despite being an All-American talent, Jackson was often playing in the shadows of fellow defensive end at Pitt, Hugh Green – a Heisman Trophy candidate. Still, plenty of fans recognized Jackson’s immense talent. He racked up nearly 300 tackles during his career and led the team with 137 in 1980.
While Jackson didn’t enjoy the same team success in the NFL that Grimm did, no one can argue that he was a feared presence and made his teams better. He was a three-time AP First Team All-Pro and helped lead the perennially awful Saints to respectability. In his final seven seasons with the team, Jackson’s teams never finished below .500 – something it did regularly in the past. Jackson realized his ultimate goal when he later won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.
He finished his NFL career as the Saints all-time leader in sacks with 123 with the team and his total of 128 sacks ranked third all-time in the NFL at the time of his retirement.
Jackson may be more well known across the country as a member of the Saints, but to Western Pennsylvania, he’ll always be a Panther.