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Rickey Jackson: Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist

Image Credit: LA Dept of Social Services

(No Joke)

We live in a society where athletes are lionized for their on-field exploits with little regard to their personal lives. Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest athlete of our time, wasn't a particularly well-behaved indivudual (he was a particularly bad husband). People in St. Louis remember Marshall Faulk as the greatest football player in Rams history -- they conveniently forget the trial for domestic assault (in fairness, he was acquitted). Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, Leonard Little ... the list could go on forever. Even our beloved cornerstone left-tackle Jammal Brown has had his run-ins with the law that we conveniently forget each time Drew Brees drops back to pass.

So I suppose we must separate Rickey Jackson's on-field performance from his off-field life when considering him as a Hall of Famer (he is one of 17 semifinalists). Jackson was, of course, a member of the Dome Patrol, quite simply one of the finest defenses ever. Were it not for those spectacular 49ers teams of the late '80s and early '90s (Jackson joined them for their title run in 1995), we would remember that as the sparkling, golden age of Saints football. With the Saints, Jackson made six Pro Bowls and recorded 10 sacks six times.

He is clearly one of the best Saints ever to suit up in the black and gold, and his on-field exploits make are worthy of enshrinement in Canton. If he is elected, he would also be the first Saint.

It's a bit misleading to say that Jackson is the most-deadbeat dad in Louisiana, even though his staggering $153, 781.33 child-support bill says he is. After all, the bill is for one child and child support is often reliant on the parent's income. There's no doubt that Jackson's prosperity led to him being forced to pay more in child support.  

I don't know anything about Rickey Jackson. He could be a great father; he could be a real jerk. But I have a tough time evaluating his Hall of Fame career without an eye toward his off-field reputation.

Still, we don't ask them to be Hall of Fame people, just Hall of Fame players.

After all, Lawrence Taylor is a Hall of Famer with similar numbers and a more-checkered past.