Super Bowl Stories: Jackie Slater & Jack Youngblood

Jan 28, 2019

Photo Credit: Associated Press
In Hollywood, there’s Iron Man, then there’s iron men.

For years, LA had two stalwarts in the trenches, PFRPA board members Jackie Slater and Jack Youngblood

Slater would play 259 games and 20 seasons at offensive tackle for the Rams, while Youngblood would play 202 games and 14 seasons at defensive end. 

Before they would share the stage in Canton in 2001, they would share the Super Bowl stage at the end of the 1979 season.

It seemed like a script rivaling the Oscar-winning “Heaven Can Wait,” only it was a tragedy instead of a comedy. 

Prior to the 1979 season, late team owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, had passed away in a fatal drowning accident. There was a power struggle that developed within the organization as the team was also playing its final home games at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Prior to Rosenbloom’s death, the Rams agreed to move their home games to Anaheim Stadium. The season itself was plagued with injuries, including the loss of their starting quarterback Pat Haden, but after an underwhelming 9-7 year, the underdog Rams reached Super Bowl XIV.

The game, which was the first Super Bowl played in the home market of one of the participants, took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. It was attended by a Super Bowl record 103,985 people.

Super Bowl XIV would display Youngblood’s toughness to the world. A few weeks prior during the Divisional game against the Cowboys, a chop-block would leave Youngblood’s left fibula fractured. Even after he got it “taped up” - however that works for a broken leg - he went back in the game and managed to sack Roger Staubach. Youngblood would continue to play every snap in the Conference Championship game and Super Bowl, having his leg [somewhat] protected by a brace. The gutsy performance would earn him the fitting moniker “the John Wayne of football.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

As for Slater, a powerful drive blocker and superb pass blocker, who could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Reggie White, did not allow a sack while facing the Steelers star pass-rusher, L.C. Greenwood.

It was competitive throughout the game, with the favored Steelers facing a deficit at halftime. Unfortunately for the Rams, their backup quarterback Vince Ferragamo and “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line could not hold onto the lead late in the final quarter.

During his Hall of Fame speech, Youngblood would quip, “If we would've stopped the game with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, we would have beat those dadgum Steelers.”

The final score was 31-19, and it would be Youngblood and Slater’s only trip to the Big Game.

Still, the perennial Pro Bowlers would experience a happy ending when they both got the call to the Hall. While a Super Bowl championship is quite the accomplishment, earning a spot in the Hall of Fame takes a supreme level of consistency throughout an entire career.

“I played this game with a passion . . . We didn't accomplish all that we set out to do. I didn't sack the quarterback every time I rushed the passer. I didn't make every tackle for a loss. I guess no one could. But, it wasn't because I didn't have the passion to, the desire to. I hope that that showed when I played the game.”
Jack Youngblood at his Hall of Fame induction

The consistency of Slater and Youngblood and the dominance at the line of scrimmage was something forged during years of practice against one another. 

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Slater would go on to say: “My beloved Jack Youngblood, a man who whipped my rear-end for three years and taught me what it was about being a pro football player. I love you Jack, and I appreciate you.” 

“A wise man said, 'There's nothing better under the sun for man to do than to eat, to drink, and to tell himself that his work is good.' I like to think my work was good and I would like to thank you for telling me that.” 
Jackie Slater at his Hall of Fame induction

Though the Steel Curtain was gold that January in 1980, 22 years later, Slater and Youngblood’s jackets would be too.

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