Iowas Mt. Rushmore: OT
The Hawkeyes have had many great offensive tackles over the years, going back to great early players like Duke Slater, all the way up to more modern day standouts like Robert Gallery. We take a look at our Mt. Rushmore selections at offensive tackle, which include Slater and Gallery, along with several other outstanding players who made a huge impact for the Hawkeyes.
As you can imagine, it was difficult to narrow the field down to a list of nominees and finally pick the four faces of the Hawkeye Football program at each position. Our voting panel consisted of Tom Kakert and Blair Sanderson from HawkeyeReport.com, Lyle Hammes, who has written two books on the history of Hawkeye Football, and Mike Hlas, Marc Morehouse and Scott Dochterman from the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Our thanks to Lyle Hammes for helping complete some of the bios for this project.
Here's our Mt. Rushmore selections at offensive tackle
Iowa's Mt. Rushmore wouldn't be complete without Fred "Duke" Slater anchoring the front line. Slater played as a freshman while the eligibility rules were temporarily expanded around World War I. He started at the tackle position and began his career at Iowa just the way he played in high school - helmetless. Not until his senior year at Iowa did Slater finally don the headgear of the day, and only part of the time then. He paved the way for backfield runners Aubrey Devine and Gordon Locke, and he did it better than almost anyone. Duke Slater went on to win All-Big Ten honors three times, and All-American honors twice. In fact, Slater became Iowa's first African-American to win All-American honors. Head coach Howard Jones once told the Iowa City Press-Citizen, "I have never seen a man who is as strong an offensive player as Slater." Duke also threw shot put and discus for the Iowa track team.
He went on to a very successful ten-year NFL career. He continued his pioneering ways, and at some points in his professional career was the only black player in the league. He was an All-Pro in seven of his ten seasons. While playing pro ball, Duke Slater even earned a law degree during the off seasons. Slater was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, and Slater Residence Hall on the University of Iowa campus is named in his honor. He is a member of the all-time University of Iowa football team as selected in 1989.
"Iron" Mike Enich was a First Team All-State fullback in 1936 from Boone, Iowa. He played his sophomore season for Coach Irl Tubbs, beginning his career as a reserve quarterback before moving to the guard position. In 1939, new Hawkeye coach Eddie Anderson placed Enich at tackle, where he proved to be one of the most durable Ironmen. He played six straight games without a substitution in 1939, joining Kinnick in that distinction. Enich was an All-Big Ten selection and a Third Team All-American in 1939. The following season, he was named team captain and MVP as a senior. Enich again earned All-Big Ten honors, and he was named a First Team All-American in 1940.
Robert Gallery followed his brother to Iowa and the 230 pound tight end grew into a the best offensive tackle in college football in his senior year. It's hard to believe now, but Gallery actually played some tight end in his redshirt freshman season and caught three passes for 52 yards. Then he made the move to tackle during the season and started the final six games of the year at right tackle. Gallery moved to left tackle in 2001 and continued to improve with each game and every snap. The big leap for Gallery came in 2002 when Iowa had one of their best offensive lines in school history. Iowa had great success running the football behind Gallery on the left side of the line. Gallery earned first team All Big Ten honors in his junior year. He considered leaving Iowa after the 2002 season and would have been a likely 1st round draft pick, but he returned for his senior season and anchored the Iowa offensive line. That season, Gallery was the Outland Trophy winner, signifying the top lineman in the country. He was a consensus All American and was the second pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
John Alt arrived at Iowa as a highly recruited 230 pound tight end from Minnesota and played tight end in his first year on campus. In 1981 he played tight end for the Hawkeyes and actually started one game at the position. He had one catch for 13 yards in his freshman season. Then Alt simply outgrew the position and blossomed into a 275 pound offensive lineman in 1982. Alt was injured late in that season and missed some time. Despite that, he earned 2nd team All Big Ten honors that season. Then in 1983, he was the anchor of the Iowa offensive line that helped Iowa's high powered offensive put up big numbers. Alt earned first team All Big Ten honors that season and was an honorable mention All American. Alt was a first round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1984 was an All Pro selection twice in his NFL career.
The rest of our nominees at offensive tackle:
Bryan Bulaga was a four star recruit according to Rivals.com when he came to Iowa City in the fall of 2007. It didn't take the rugged offensive lineman from the Chicago area to find his way on to the field for the Hawkeyes. After an early season injury, Bulaga first saw the field as an offensive guard for Iowa as a true freshman. In his sophomore season, Bulaga took over at left tackle for the Hawkeyes, leading the way for a record setting season for running back Shonn Greene and earned 2nd team All Big Ten honors. In his junior year, Bulaga continued to establish himself as one of the top offensive tackles in college football with dominant performances. He was a first team All Big Ten selection and was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was also named to several national All American teams in his junior year. Bulaga left after his junior season and was a first round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers.
Riley Reiff was originally recruited to the University of Iowa to play defensive end. But, that didn't last too long. After redshirting in his freshman year, Reiff made the transition to the offensive side of the ball and started at tackle and guard in his redshirt freshman season. In his sophomore season he took over at left tackle and was a second team All Big Ten selection. In his junior season, Reiff lived up the preseason expectations, leading the Iowa offensive line and earning several All American honors and first team All Big Ten honors. Following his junior season, Reiff opted to declare for the NFL Draft and was a first round pick of the Detroit Lions.
Another story of an Iowa player coming in at one position and ending up starring at offensive tackle. Like a few other former Hawkeyes on our list, Haight started out expecting to play tight end, but he outgrew the position and landed on the offensive line by his third year on campus. In 1984, his junior season, Haight earned 1st team All Big Ten honors, despite being hampered by injuries most of the season. In 1985, he earned 1st team All Big Ten honors and was named Offensive Lineman of the Year by the Big Ten Conference. Haight was a first round selection in the 1986 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
The Sioux City native was an all-state performer in high school before arriving at the University of Iowa. Croston was a reserve at offensive tackle early in his career, backing up John Alt. In 1984, Croston battled injuries and missed most of the season. He ended up starting early in the year and then the final two games of the season. He stayed healthy in 1985 and started every game on the offensive line, earning honorable mention All Big Ten honors. In his senior season, Croston took off at tackle helping to lead Iowa's high scoring offense. He earned first team All Big Ten honors and was named Offensive Lineman of the Year by the Big Ten Conference. He also was named as a first team All American by one media outlet and second team by other services. Croston was a third round pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 1987 NFL Draft.
The early to mid-70's were lean times for the Iowa Football program. Wins were hard to come by and Hawkeyes struggled to find them. But, there were a few bright spots during this era of Iowa Football and one of them was offensive tackle Rod Walters. The Michigan native came to Iowa in the early 70's and developed into a standout performer for the Hawkeyes. In 1975, Walters earned first team All American honors from several media outlets and was named first team All Big Ten. Walters was then selected in the first round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bill Kay, a 6'5", 220-pound tackle from Walnut, Iowa, initially came to Iowa to play basketball. He made his mark as a football player, however, earning Third Team All-American honors and being named team MVP as a sophomore. At the tackle position, Kay helped clear the way for Bob Smith in 1946, Iowa's first 500-yard rusher since Ozzie Simmons in 1936. As a senior in 1948, Kay was an All-Big Ten selection and a Second Team All-American. In his final game, he blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for an Iowa touchdown in a win over Boston University. He led the Big Ten in minutes played as a senior, averaging more than 55 minutes a game and twice playing all sixty minutes.
Peter Westra was a three-sport star at Sheldon High School in northwest Iowa before heading to Iowa City. He played two seasons at the guard position for the Hawkeye football squad, winning accolades for his play as a junior in 1928. Westra's All-Big Ten play propelled the Hawks to a 6-0 start, and he was named a First Team All-American after the season. As a senior, he shifted back to the tackle position, a position at which he was an Honorable Mention All-American. Westra was a cornerstone of the heaviest line in the Big Ten during his three seasons at Iowa, and the Hawkeyes had a 10-4-2 record in his final two seasons.