Every Tuesday at Rock-n-Bowl, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback club holds a luncheon. At these weekly luncheons, they honor two high school scholar athletes for their achievements on and off the field followed by a variety of speakers, including high school college and professional coaches. One week, the speaker was Saints Hall-of-Famer Rickey Jackson, who I had the honor of sitting down and speaking with.
The “Dome Patrol” founding member, Rickey Jackson is one of the greatest linebackers of all-time and the first Saints player to be inducted in the Pro-Bowl Hall of Fame. Rickey spoke on a variety of topics that had many in the audience interested in today’s Saints and his current life.
What stood out the most about Rickey, however, was his dedication in keeping and honoring his word to come to the luncheon. Rickey was in the hospital the night before the event, and though he didn’t say why, I knew he wouldn’t let whatever it was stop him from fulfilling responsibilities.
That was inspiration right there and made me even more honored to have the opportunity to interview him after the lunch.
Q: What would you suggest for young players entering the NFL (about how they are supported and how this industry can sometimes change you)?
Rickey Jackson: My whole thing is if a guy’s gonna make pro football then…it’s alright for a player to go into it, but if you ain’t gonna make pro football, I wouldn’t even suggest a guy playing football these days. Because of the after effect, you know, when it’s all over with, the problems all these guys having. I’m seeing some of these guys having so many head problems, problems with knees and hips and everything is going out on them.
So, I mean, my thing is it’s for guys who’ve got a shot to make pro, but if a guy ain’t gonna make pro I don’t think he should take the beating and take all the backlash that come with it. But the thing about it is, he’s gotta watch the crowd he’s running with. That’s the whole key to–who he’s following, who is his mentors, who is he looking up to. That’s gonna be the key to him getting with the right guys and hanging with the right guys. Because a lot of young guys now, you see them getting murdered and getting killed because the better you trying to do, the more jealous people be. If you trying to be great, if you trying to do something, the guys who ain’t doing that–they jealous of it. So, he got a lot to go through, a lot to watch out for.
Q: I know that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and I know you beat it in 2015. How was that if I may ask and how did the NFL support you during this time?
Rickey Jackson: Yeah, all players get screened free. All of them get screened free. They don’t have to–I mean we have a whole hospital at Tulane where anything that’s going on with you, you can go [to the] hospital free and get everything free. So you ain’t got no business having nothing that you don’t know you have. We got a whole NFL hospital here, so you know you can’t beat that.
And on that note, people from other teams–they can come here and get checked, too. They check all the NFL players here…Tulane University, they got a whole third floor for ex football players to come so every week probably four, five, six football players from other teams come and spend three days to get all checked–see everything they need, get all their organs checked, all their everything checked.
They’ve been doing that now for a couple year. They check your prostate, check your heart, they check everything. They check your memories.
Q: Just because playing in the NFL is not a career you can have forever, how important do you feel it is to have a college degree and a back up plan?
Rickey Jackson: Well, I look at so many people that got college degrees that can’t get a job. So a college degree is great to have, you ain’t never gonna tell nobody not to go get a college degree, but a college degree don’t always secure you neither. So what you need to have is some knowledge and somewhere to get where you can do something on your own. I mean try to get your own stuff established, try to work for yourself. Because if you trying to sit there and wait on a paycheck from a college degree every week, every two weeks, you’re gonna be stuck in the system.
A college degree is great to have and you want all your kids to have them and everybody want their kids to get a college degree, but now a college degree–it don’t… it’s not the same as it used to be. I mean, you know, you get a college degree and you get a job and every two weeks you get a check and the check goes to all your bills. So now you got to wait the next week–so it ain’t…you ain’t getting ahead with that.
Get you something that you can make money. Get you a boutique or get you a restaurant or get something that you got a couple hundred thousand dollars coming in, you know, where you can make your own money.
Q: Is there anything else you would to share or say to upcoming players or young people in general?
Rickey Jackson: No, I’m just glad to see you doing what you’re doing and keep it up. Take it to the next level.
Branisha Spincer is a graduate of Bard Early College and KIPP Renaissance High School. She is currently a freshman at Texas Christian University.