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Former Hawkeyes Duke Slater, Alex Karras selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

Two former Iowa star linemen from separate generations were named to the 2020 Centennial Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Fred “Duke” Slater, who was a Hawkeye from 1918-21, and Alex Karras (1956-57) are the fourth and fifth players in program history to achieve the sport's highest honor.

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

In his four seasons, Slater helped Iowa post a 23-6-1 record. Iowa had a 7-0 Big Ten record in 1921 to claim the conference title and was named by more than one media outlet as national champion.

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. He moved to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1964. Slater died in 1966 at the age of 67.

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.

A sculpture featuring Slater was added outside the north end zone of Kinnick Stadium last season.

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

Karras was a defensive tackle for the Hawkeyes in 1956 and 1957. The native of Gary, Indiana, earned all-America 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 voting for the 1957 Heisman Trophy.

Karras and the Hawkeyes posted a 16-2-1 record in two seasons, concluding the 1956 season at 9-1 after a 35-19 win over Oregon State in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten title and were named national champions by at least one national media outlet.

Karras was the 10th player selected in the 1958 NFL Draft. He played his entire NFL career (1958-70) for the Detroit Lions, earning first- or second-team All-Pro nine times and being selected for 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. Karras died in 2012 at the age of 77.

After his football career, Karras became a successful actor.

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

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.