Legends of the Game: Jackie Slater, Mr. Consistent

jackie-slaterAt 6’4 and 277 pounds, Jackie Slater was well put together for a lineman during his era. In terms of weight, he was not one of the bigger lineman, but he had the strength of a triceratops. Slater was probably able to play for 19 seasons because he was in great shape. He played all 19 seasons with the Rams, which was a NFL record. Slater played in 259 games and started in 211 of them at tackle. He played on what is considered one of the most consistent offensive lines in NFL history that boasted Kent Hill and Dennis Harrah. Slater was the most prolific of the bunch as he was a seven time Pro Bowler and a five time All-Pro tackle.

Slater was heavily recruited by Jackson State following his senior year at local Wingfield High School. Future Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton did everything he could to lure Slater to his school. Payton would constantly visit the young tackle and eventually Slater committed to Jackson. Payton said, “Of course a lot of my interest was selfish. Nothing better than recruiting another good offensive lineman.” Slater was hoping to play offense and defense, but like Payton they thought his potential was greater on offense. Slater was not a big fan of the move as he thought he would be an exceptional pass rusher. He would go on to have a decorated career at tackle where he was a first team All American by The Pittsburgh Courier and participated in the 1976 College All-Star Game. He was a third stringer in the game, but he got to practice against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Slater had the task of blocking Joe Greene as he tried to slow him down by attacking his legs with vicious cut blocks. Greene warned the young tackle, but this only fired him up. Slater was schooled as he tried again and missed subsequently taking two knees to the chest from Greene. He might have received his “welcome to the NFL” moment prematurely as he would go on to be drafted.

The Los Angeles Rams selected Slater in the third round of the 1976 NFL draft. In his third season, he became a starter and helped “pave” the way for the Rams play in Super Bowl XIV. Slater faced the Steelers once again this time there was more at stake. The Steelers prevailed 31-19, but Slater was impeccable, as he never gave up a sack against L.C. Greenwood. Slater would go on to have a breakout year in 1983 as he helped Eric Dickerson break the rookie rushing record with 1,808 yards. He was named to his first Pro Bowl and received an All-Pro nod that year. He would go on to have a successful career as a Ram propelling running backs to 107 games with at least 100 yards. Slater missed a load of games in 1984; however, he returned and continued to dominate in 1985 until the time he retired. He was the leader of the Rams offensive line and was praised for his work ethic. He received the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award for his leadership on the field and in the community in 1995. Slater admired Jack Youngblood, but Youngblood spoke glowingly of his former teammate. Youngblood said, “Jackie Slater didn’t want to just beat you, he wanted to dominate you.” Slater is one of the most dominant players in Rams history and for that reason his jersey is retired. He went from being a big kid in Jackson, Mississippi to one of the biggest stars to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

Tags: Jackie Slater, Jack Youngblood, Los Angeles Rams, NFL, Eric Dickerson, Bart Starr Man of the Year, The Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh Steelers, Walter Payton, L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, Kent Hill, Dennis Harrah

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