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 The class of 2001
This year's crop of NFL Hall of Famers sounds off on their elections.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Slater joins Youngblood in Class of 2001
By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com


Jackie Slater
Jackie Slater reacts to learning that he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
TAMPA, Fla. -- For about 30 tense seconds Saturday, Jackie Slater was not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2001.

But after a few moments of mild unrest in a jam-packed interview room and a shuffling of paperwork by Hall of Fame Executive Director John Bankert, that all changed.

"Oh -- and Jackie Slater," he said, after tabbing six other names for the group for 2001. "This is your Class of 2001 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

Slater, a first-time nominee and a veteran of 20 NFL seasons, watched the announcement in a hotel room across the street when it was made.

"Didn't you hear that scream a couple minutes ago?" he joked. "I had figured we'd give it another shot next year, but then I thought I heard somebody yell my name. But then they found the paper. I was like, 'Alright!!'"

Slater, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft and played his entire career for the franchise, earned legendary status for his durability and longevity in the trenches of the NFL. When he retired after the 1995 season, he was tied for third all-time for most seasons played (20) in league history. His 259 games played are the most ever by an offensive lineman.

Sat., Jan. 27
How many guys--in all of pro sports, not just the NFL-- played 20 years with the same franchise? It's rare in general and virtually unheard of these days. If Eric Dickerson had stayed with Slater and the Rams, he would have been the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Slater was as smart a lineman as there ever was in the NFL. You're not supposed to be that big and be able to move around that well.

Slater never needed help blocking, he never took a play off, and no one on the Rams ever had to worry if Slater was going to take care of his man. Slater commanded an enormous amount of respect from the guys he played with and against. And people liked him; he was never an idiot. As great as Slater was at playing, he's twice as good at being a man--which is really saying something. Slater deserves to be in the Hall on his first ballot.

Together with fellow 2001 inductee and former Rams teammate Jack Youngblood, Slater becomes the 12th member of the Rams franchise to be elected to the Hall of Fame. And along with 2001 inductee Ron Yary, Slater is the 13th modern-era player to spend the majority of his career as an offensive tackle.

"I really can't explain what it means, I can't put it into words," said Slater, who now works as an analyst for FOX Sports. "I just wanted to be remembered as someone who loved to play the game, who had fun at what he was doing."

Slater said it's an added honor to be inducted with Youngblood, someone who caused the 6-4, 277-pound tackle fits during his early years with the Rams. Without those early-career struggles, Slater said he never would have achieved Hall of Fame status.

"I didn't know how to deal with him, it was frustrating," Slater said. "I looked at Jack, and I was just as tough as him, but I learned it wasn't just about being physical. Just when you thought you'd figure him out, he'd try something new."

In his 20 years in the league, Slater blocked for twenty-four different quarterbacks and 37 different running backs. He opened holes for seven 1,000 yards rushers, including Eric Dickerson. In 1983, the Slater-led offensive line allowed a league-low 23 sacks and aided Dickerson in setting the league's rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards.

A native of Jackson, Miss., Slater played college football at Jackson State, where he opened holes for a kid named Walter Payton.

He played in a Rams record 18 playoff games, including a 31-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com





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