Saints Mount Rushmore Plus One Series: The linebackers

It took two sculptors, 14 years, hundreds of men and thousands of tons of dynamite deep in the heart of the Black Hills region of South Dakota to build Mount Rushmore, which celebrates the great contributions presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

The Advocate is taking the same skill, precision, passion and thought to forever immortalize past and present members of the New Orleans Saints. In this 10-week "The New Orleans Saints Mount Rushmore Plus One Series" (it's "plus one" because we have some extra explosives left over from last year's Mardi Gras) The Advocate lists the top Saints at the positions of quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, coach and general manager.

Here is a look at the linebackers....

1. Rickey Jackson (1981-93)
As one of the greatest players in franchise history, Jackson was a unanimous No. 1 pick at this area. He was voted to six Pro Bowls and remains the team’s all-time sack leader with 115. A warrior who missed only two games in his Saints’ career (because of a car accident), he ranks second with 195 games played. He led the team in sacks three times and tied for the lead two other times. Jackson had seven interceptions and forced 38 fumbles and recovered 27.

2. Sam Mills (1986-94)
At 5 feet, 9 1/2 inches, Mills wasn’t the protypical linebacker. But there was no way of measuring his heart as the former USFL star had nine solid seasons with the Saints as the leader of the team’s famed Dome Patrol. Known by teammates as “The Field Mouse,” the nickname was appropriate as he made plays by tracking ball carriers from sideline to sideline. He made four Pro Bowl while playing in 133 games and had four interceptions, 10.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and 17 recoveries.

3. Vaughan Johnson (1986-93)
Like Mills, Johnson played inside in the 3-4 scheme that defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell used and also brought the heat as a hard-hitting tackler. He and Mills formed a solid inside tandem who were especially tough against the run. In his eight seasons with the Saints, Johnson played in 124 games with 98 starts and was chosen to the Pro Bowl three times. In his career, he had 12 sacks and four interceptions and also had 11 forced fumbles.

4. Pat Swilling (1986-92)
A cat-quick pass rusher, Swilling was one of the league’s best at getting to the quarterback in the late 1980s and early 1990s partly because teams couldn’t double-team both he and Jackson. Swilling was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1991 when he had 17 sacks, just two seasons after he had 16.5. He led the team in sacks four times and tied for the lead once. He’s third in franchise history with 76.5 sacks in 107 games played and had 24 forced fumbles.

5. Jonathan Vilma (2008-13)
Obtained in a trade with the Jets in 2008, Vilma’s career with the Saints was cut short by knee problems. Team officials announced in February they wouldn’t re-sign Vilma after he played in only one game last season following a knee injury and subsequent arthroscopic surgery in August. He played in 70 games with 68 starts and the two-time Pro Bowler (2009-10) is the only Saints linebacker to be chosen to multiple all-star games besides the big four of Jackson, Mills, Johnson and Swilling.