Karras, Slater named to Pro Football Hall of Fame

With their induction, five former Hawkeyes have now been awarded professional football's greatest honor.


Shivansh Ahuja

A statue of former Iowa lineman Duke Slater is seen outside the north end zone of Kinnick Stadium during Iowa football media day on August 9, 2019.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Former standout Iowa football players Alex Karras and Fred “Duke” Slater have been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They were inducted as a part of the 2020 Centennial Class.

Karras played defensive end for the Hawkeyes in 1956 and 1957. The Gary, Indiana, native earned All-American honors as a junior and was a consensus All-American as a senior. He earned the Outland Trophy in 1957 as the top lineman in the nation, and was second in the Heisman Trophy voting that season.

In his two seasons with the team, Karras and the Hawkeyes went 16-2-1, including a 35-19 win in the 1956 Rose Bowl.

Karras was the 10th player selected in the 1958 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played his entire professional career (1958-70) with Detroit, earning first or second-team All-Pro nine times and being selected to the Pro Bowl four times.

Karras was inducted into the Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1989 and was inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

Slater joined the Iowa program after a prep career at Clinton (Iowa) High School. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in his final three seasons. Slater earned first-team All-American honors in 1921, becoming the first African-American at Iowa to earn that distinction.

In his four seasons as a Hawkeye, Slater helped lead Iowa to a 23-6-1 record. The Hawkeyes finished with a perfect 7-0 record in 1921 to claim the conference title, and more than one media outlet named Iowa as national champions.

Slater played 10 seasons of professional football. He was the first African-American lineman in NFL history and the only African-American to play in the NFL in 1927 and 1929. Slater was a six-time All-Pro.

During the NFL off-season, Slater took classes and earned a law degree from Iowa in 1928. He served as a Chicago assistant district attorney and in 1960, became the first black member of the Chicago Superior Court.

Slater was one of five members of the inaugural Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in 1951 and was a member of the inaugural National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame that same year.

Slater Residence Hall on the University of Iowa campus bears his name and is the only Iowa residence hall named after a student-athlete.

As part of the 100-year celebration of Iowa football in 1989, both Karras and Slater were named to Iowa’s all-time football team.

Karras and Slater join three other Hawkeyes in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Emlen Tunnell (inducted in 1967), Paul Krause (1998), and Andre Tippett (2008).

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