I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972. I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion. The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree. I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used. I will add at least one a day, maybe two.
My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:
3. Place in program history.
4. Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers.
5. No current players.
9. Rickey Jackson (1977-80)- He was always considered "that other defensive end for Pitt" as in "that other defensive end for Pitt is pretty good, too". That's what happens when you are the end on a team with Hugh Green. But ultimately, of course, Jackson was considered great in his own right.
It didn't start off that way, however. Despite playing in his first two seasons, which is admittedly a remarkable accomplishment on such a loaded team, it wasn't until his junior season that the Florida resident really turned it on. That year Jackson accumulated 111 tackles and 4 sacks. In his senior year, he finally removed all doubt about just how good he was when he ended the season with an incredible 137 tackles (14 more than Green), 12 sacks, four pass breakups, four forced fumbles, and even an interception. He even scored two 2-point conversions on trick plays.
Jackson was especially great at the end of the season. In the second to last regular season game, Jackson was the national defensive player of the week after he had 12 tackles, 3 sacks, intercepted a pass, caused a fumble, and blocked a punt in a 45-7 win at Army. In a 14-9 Pitt regular season finale win over No. 5 Penn State, Jackson had 13 solo tackles and was named the game's most outstanding player. In his last game, against South Carolina and Heisman winner George Rogers in the Gator Bowl, Jackson led the defense with 19 tackles, 15 of them against Rogers. The defense, fired up because of Green losing to Rogers in the Heisman voting, kept the Gamecocks running back in check on the way to a 37-9 win.
After the season Jackson was drafted in the 2nd round by the New Orleans Saints. He eventually went to six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro six times. He even got a Super Bowl ring later in his career with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2010, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, forever ending the description of him as "the other defensive end".