Dolphin started the interview by mentioning my motivations for writing the book. We talked briefly about my feeling that Duke Slater has not received the recognition he deserves as a great player and racial pioneer in sports.
Dolph confessed that at the time of the interview, he was only halfway through the book. Honestly, I was pretty impressed, because I can only imagine how busy the Voice of the Hawkeyes is during the fall season. “But I promise you, Neal, if it wasn’t football season, I would have read this thing from cover to cover in one day,” Dolph remarked. “Every football fan in the state of Iowa ought to latch onto this book. It’s one of those books you can’t put down once you get into it.”
What I love about Slater is that the conversation can go in several different directions. Dolphin brought up Slater’s track career, so we spent several minutes talking about track. We discussed Duke Slater’s impressive track career; Slater helped lead Iowa to a third place finish at the first ever NCAA Track and Field Championships held in 1921.
That quickly led to a conversation about Sol Butler, a Dubuque native. Dolphin lives and works in Dubuque, and he has both a knowledge and an appreciation for the sports history of that town. Sol Butler, who competed in the long jump at the 1920 Olympics, was labeled by Dolph as “maybe the greatest athlete ever to perform at the University of Dubuque.” I proceeded to note that Butler and Slater later became teammates in the NFL for the Rock Island Independents.
Dolph talked about how this era of football, with stars like Jay Berwanger and Nile Kinnick, was so special and fascinating. I agreed, mentioning a few of the great names listed in the book. I brought up how highly Slater was regarded by legends like Red Grange, Curly Lambeau, and George Halas. Dolph replied, “If you’re into history at all, this is an absolute must-read.”
We concluded the interview by talking about how Duke Slater preferred to play the game without a helmet. Dolph joked that Slater would have a real problem with the new helmet rules today. (The new rules state that if your helmet flies off, you need to sit out a play…Dolph cracked that under today’s rules, Slater wouldn’t even be able to take the field!)
All in all, I had a wonderful time on The Dolph Report. Some of Gary Dolphin’s quotes will be added to the Reviews section. Many thanks to Gary Dolphin for taking the time to talk with me about Duke Slater!
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