Catching up with Jackie Slater

Posted Jan 20, 2014

Jackie Slater played offensive tackle for 20 years in the NFL – quite the feat in itself. During his career, he racked up numerous awards for his play on the field including seven Pro Bowl appearances. Slater spent 19 of those years as a Los Angeles Ram before making the trek to the heartland for one final season as a St. Louis Ram in 1995. His triumphs culminated in 2001 when he became the first St. Louis Ram inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though he spent the better part of two decades playing pro football in L.A., it’s a distinction he’s proud to bear. 

“For those who were fans when the Rams came to St. Louis, they remember me as the old guy who was trying to get the twentieth year in,” said Slater. “Those fans were very supportive and they really made me feel a part of their efforts there in St. Louis. I feel like it’s my second NFL home.”

Jackie and his wife Annie live in Los Angeles, California, and have two sons. Their youngest son, David, is finishing up his senior year of college. Their oldest son, Matthew, played wide receiver at UCLA and was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2008. Matthew is in his sixth season with the Pats and will make his third Pro Bowl appearance as a special teamer this year.

“My wife and I have enjoyed watching him take his skills and take them to a different level,” said Slater. “It’s very gratifying, very rewarding. It’s a little bit different than when you actually do it yourself, but it’s just as sweet if not sweeter to see your son take on and have a great work ethic and do the things he needs to do to distinguish himself in such a special way.”

Outside of being a husband and father, Slater currently serves as the offensive line coach at Azusa Pacific University near L.A. He was invited to check out to the football program and take a look at the campus by Head Coach Victor Santa Cruz. They felt it was a good fit for both parties and Slater has now been there for three years.

“The best part of coaching has been building into young man’s lives,” said Slater. “Having young people who value experience and want to hear what you have to say. They are aspiring to go to places that you’ve been and to reach levels that you’ve reach and so they listen.”

The willingness to learn and listen are traits that Slater looked for amongst his younger teammates during his playing days as well.

“There were young guys that came in there looking at me as a competitor and they were trying to take my job, they were less likely to have me involved in a positive way and encouraging and helping them," said Slater. “As opposed to a young guy who came in and wanted to learn and viewed your experiences as valuable and they wanted to learn from you. Humility goes a long ways and I enjoy dealing with tough, competitive football players that are humble.”

In his first three years at Azusa, one of Slater’s students has gone on to the pros and is now a tackle with the San Francisco 49ers, Luke Marquardt. Helping athletes achieve their full potential seems to be where Slater gets the most fulfillment.

In fact, Slater took a particular interest from afar in current Rams tackle Joe Barksdale while he was at Louisiana State University. Barksdale was drafted by the Raiders in 2011 and released after one year – something that Slater couldn’t understand.

“So my questions was, ‘Why would a guy with the ability to do it and the desire to do it, not be doing it?’” said Slater. “I learned that he was a former defensive lineman and things began to fall into place for me right away. You don’t go to the level that he’s been playing at in the National Football League and expect to be a consistently effective player in that short of period of time, converting from one position to the next. It takes time and it takes effort and it takes a lot of good coaching like what he’s getting there with the Rams now.”

“We actually got together and spent some time,” said Slater. “He’s a tremendously gifted football player physically. He’s on his way to having himself a sparkling career in the National Football League.”

These days, a lot of Slater’s time is dedicated to the advancement of others. But, he is making the most of his time at APU by attending classes on campus to earn his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.

“I was prompted to go back to challenge myself cognitively,” said Slater. “To make sure I was still feeding my brain, so to speak. Trying to grow and trying to learn. Instead of just having all of the concussions that I had and the broken noses that I had dictate the direction that my life goes.”

Though Slater and his family stay busy, he has remained involved and supportive of the Rams over the years. He and his wife made the trip with the team to London last season and he has attended many games since his retirement.

“I always wish the Rams the very best of luck,” said Slater. “I think that the guy (Head Coach Jeff Fisher) that’s leading them right now is going to be bring them back to prominence and it’s going to be fun watching them.”