Former New Orleans Saints LB Rickey Jackson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this evening. Below is a copy of Jackson's enshrinement speech.
First, I want to give praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all he has done for me and my family.
My story began in a small town in Palm Beach County on Lake Okeechobee called Pahokee, FL. It began when I was ten years old. I am the youngest of five children (one brother and three sisters). When you are the youngest of five, life can be tough. My mother, Leila Lawson, watched me play football from the time I was a child until I retired from the NFL. She passed away in 2004 but I know she is looking down on me and smiling right now.
My mother was a tough woman who always told me not to listen to everyone else in the neighborhood who said "You won't make it." "No one ever makes it out of Pahokee and you won't either." She made us believe that we had greatness within us...she taught us to pray, get our education and find a good job. I always listened to what she said but I also knew I wanted to play in the NFL.
When I look back on my life, I think of how important it is to let people know that they are appreciated because our time here on earth is very short. So today, I want to thank my father, Van Jackson. After I grew up and became a man, I realized how much he means to me. My father has always been a hard worker. He helped me to realize that everyone makes mistakes and I am so thankful for him.
I am thankful for my entire family today but as I look back on my journey, I know that I never could have made it without the support of many others. A lot of my supporters are here today. Some are watching from home and many have passed away. As I grew up in Pahokee, FL, I had the support of my family and the people in my community...I thank God for all of them.
My football career began at Pahokee High School. So today, I would like to thank Antoine Russell (my head coach), Sandy Hyneman (my defense coach) and Coach Eddie Rhodes. These men were great coaches and taught me about work ethic. They told me that if I wanted to get a football scholarship, I had to work hard because nothing in life was free.
I remember when these guys would cruise through neighborhoods at night trying to catch football players on the streets after curfew. If you were caught hanging out after curfew, they would make you go home. Back then in the 70's, our coaches had our parents' permission to discipline us if necessary.
Their watchful eye saved a lot of us from the trouble in the streets. It also helped me to get a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. We had a bunch of guys who were NFL material. Pahokee's football players are still among the best around today.
The hard work paid off. I was blessed to earn a scholarship to play with Coach Jackie Sherrill at the University of Pittsburgh. Coach Jimmy Johnson was my defensive coach when I made it to Pitt. Those guys always had a winning attitude and taught us that losing was not an option. "You had to hit to play at Pitt." My teammates brought out the best in me. I was surrounded by talented players like Hugh Green. Russ Grimm, Mark May and Dan Marino.
I thank former Saints owner John Mecom, Jr. and Coach Bum Phillips for giving me my start in the NFL. I remember when George Rogers and I went to New Orleans determined that we would help the Saints become a winner. Coach Wade Phillips was my defensive coordinator and Coach John Paul Young was my linebacker coach. Those guys believed in me and helped me to develop into a six-time All Pro Linebacker.
After my fourth season with the Saints, our team was for sale. I prayed that we didn't move to a new city. God answered my prayer when Mr. Tom Benson, purchased the team and kept us in New Orleans. He promised us that we would win ...He hired Mr. Jim Finks and Coach Jim Mora to turn things around. It only took two seasons before we played our first playoff game in history. They brought in some of the best linebackers in the business like Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson and Pat Swilling. I know somebody out there remembers the Dome Patrol.
After 13 seasons in New Orleans, I headed west to San Francisco. Coach George Seifert, Jerry Rice and the 49er’s allowed me to join their team in my quest for a championship. After one season, I was blessed to get my only Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl 29 and I am truly grateful for that opportunity.
I thank each player that I have ever played with at every level. I have learned something from each one of you. I would like to call the names of some people, but I won't do that because I don't want to miss anyone. If I had to stand here and name everyone who influenced my life, it would take longer than eight minutes so thanks to everyone who helped me to get here today.
The fans of New Orleans are the most loyal fans in the world! I remember my first game in the Louisiana Superdome. I got all pumped up as the fans were screaming and cheering before the game. This past February, as I stood on the field for the Saints’ first Super Bowl, it brought back a lot of memories when I heard the fans cheering as I was introduced as an enshrinee of the class of 2010 Hall of Fame.
Thank You to the entire who dat nation! You have always shown me a lot of love...You never stopped believing in me...You are the greatest fans of all time!
I thank NFL fans all over the world for their support over the years. As I stand here, I want to thank all of my family members, my children, Willie Scott, Mr. Benson and his family, the New Orleans Saints organization, the state of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, the San Francisco 49ers and the University of Pittsburgh. Thanks to all the players and fans who have remained friends with me over the years.
Thank you to Pahokee High School, all the citizens of my hometown in Pahokee and Palm Beach County, FL. I will always be your "City Champ."
As I close, I want you to know that I am proud to share this honor with this talented group of men. I thank the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee and commissioner Goodell. To the people of Canton, Ohio, you have been the best and I am eternally grateful. Most importantly, I want to thank Jesus Christ. I will cherish this day forever...I have lived my dream. Thank you and God bless you.