This is the first part of a four part series looking at which NFL Players should be put in the Hall of Fame. It baffles me that Duke Slater isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Duke Slater was born in Normal, Illinois in 1898, and as a kid excelled in football enough that he was given the opportunity to play football for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Duke went on to become one of the greatest players in Iowa history. He was so great that Duke Slater was considered to be the option for Iowa’s new football stadium over Heisman-winner Nile Kinnick but it never materialized. He does have a dormitory named after him.
After college he started his professional career with the Wisconsin Badgers in 1922 playing 2 games before being sent to the Rock Island Independents. He was listed as a first or second team All-Pro all three years he played there, while playing in every minute of every game. In 1926 the Independents disbanded, sending him to the Chicago Cardinals. He was awarded first or second All-Pro from 1927-1930. He was also on the O-line for Ernie Nevers’ historic 6 touchdown game. These merits are comparable to Hall of Famers Pete Henry and Link Lyman (linemen in the Hall of Fame from the same era as Duke).
Duke Slater never missed a game due to injury, the only game he missed was due to the color of his skin. Yes, Duke Slater was black. He was the very first African American lineman and was at times the only African American in the NFL. It is amazing that Duke Slater was able to accomplish all that he did despite being on the receiving end of any possible cheap shot in football’s toughest era, just for the color of his skin. Fritz Pollard, known as one of the first African American football player and the first African American Coach, got into the Hall of Fame on much less merit, (1 All-Pro selection). Why not put Duke Slater in? His performance on the field compares favorably with players currently in the Hall of Fame and he was an icon. So put him in the Hall of Fame.