A graduate of Jackson State University, he was a teammate of Walter Payton. Drafted in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft, Slater seldom played his first few years before starting in 1979. Known as the most consistent member of one of the most potent offensive lines in NFL history, Slater was selected to seven Pro Bowls and broke a record for most seasons with one team. His jersey number was retired and he was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
His son, Matthew Slater is currently a special teams ace for the New England Patriots. He is currently the offensive line coach at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.
Although used primarily as a backup and special teams player during his first three seasons, Slater became the starting right tackle in 1979. That year the Rams went to Super Bowl XIV, where he successfully defended L.C. Greenwood from getting a quarterback sack.1 In 1980, he was a part of an offensive line that surrendered just 29 sacks and helped the Rams’ offense finish second in the NFL in total yards gained with 6,006. In 1983, he and the Rams offensive line demonstrated their versatility when they allowed a league-low 23 sacks while also paving the way for Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. In 1985, he was the key blocker for Dickerson as he ran for a playoff record 248 years and two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys in a NFL divisional game.2 During the 1987 NFL strike, Slater was one of the few veterans who crossed the picket line.4 During a 1989 playoff game, Slater prevented Reggie White, who was considered the premium pass rusher in the NFL, from sacking the quarterback, a game that Slater later became best known for.15 Slater was considered by critics the most consistent lineman on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, which also included Pro BowlersKent Hill and Dennis Harrah and was regonized for his "work ethnic and leadership skills" when he was inducted to the Hall of Fame.56 He retired after the 1995 season when injuries reduced him to playing one game the entire year.7
He was voted the National Football League Players Association NFC Offensive Lineman of the year four times—1983, 1986, 1987, and 1989 and was the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award winner after the 1995 season. Slater played in 259 games from 1976 to 1995, a then-record for offensive lineman (broken by Bruce Matthews in the 1999 season).1 He was the first player to play 20 seasons for one team, later matched by Washington RedskinscornerbackDarrell Green and Detroit LionskickerJason Hanson and third all-time.6 He played for 24 quarterbacks and 37 running backs in his lengthy career, during which seven running backs reached for over 1,000 yards in a season and played in seven Pro Bowls.6 Former teammate Jim Everett stated "Jackie Slater is proof they were playing football in the prehistoric days".1 He was Dickerson's Hall of Fame presenter in 1999.1 In 2001, Slater was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Upon hearing his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, fellow inductee and teammate Jack Youngblood said "Jackie Slater didn't want to just beat you, he wanted to dominate you. That's what made him the player that he was."1 On being honored, Slater stated "As you walk around and shake hands with some of the greatest players in history, it finally hits you, that you belong. You're a part of the greatest roster ever assembled."8
His son Matthew, who played college football at UCLA, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft.12 He is currently a gunner, and special teams captain for the Patriots. The Slaters have 10 Pro Bowl nods between them, and his son's nominations to the Pro Bowl makes the Slater family the second most nominated family in the NFL (only Archie, Eli, and Peyton Manning have more Pro-Bowl nominations as a family).13 Slater is active with the NFL Play 60 program, which sends NFL players to schools to discuss spending 60 minutes a day to participate in sports activities.14 Another son, David is in his final year in college, and Slater and his family live in Los Angeles.11