After a season in which Iowa—led by Aubrey Devine, Fred “Duke” Slater, and Gordon Locke—prevented Knox College from making a first down, served Notre Dame its first defeat in two years, beat the Illinois “Indians,” subdued Purdue in a sloppy game played on a field covered with several inches of water, mastered “the puzzling Minnesota shift” on the way to a 41-7 victory over the Gophers, and ended the season by skunking both Indiana and Northwestern, Iowa reigned supreme. The Hawkeyes were undisputed champions of the Western Conference.

It was a year when fan fervor reached a peak, though only four games were played at home. For the homecoming game against Illinois on October 15, alumni returned from near and far, including one man from Panama City and another from Trinidad, British West Indies. Iowa Citians were used to opening their homes to house the old grads, but in 1921 “a dearth of space brought an appeal to the mayor to open the jail!”

More than 15,000 watched Iowa defeat Illinois, 14-2, and fans then encountered a problem that persists today. “If there was a sea of faces in the bleachers, there was a forest of automobiles around town…. Autoists parked their cars anywhere they could find space…. Very few of these were city cars, as Iowa City people had agreed to leave their cars at home and walk to the game, to give room to out-of-town cars. Such crowds and conveyances contrast sharply with days of the past.”

Aubrey Devine, UI quarterback

Aubrey Devine

When the season was over, a “monster celebration” shook the town and university students enjoyed a half-day reprieve from classes. The report in the Hawkeye noted that “a fact that caused a great deal of comment during the football season was that at nearly every game in which the Hawkeyes participated, Iowa’s opponents would call time out, and lie down for a rest, or lie down between quarters, but the Iowa men would be standing up, or running around to keep warm, and it did not seem to effect their good playing.”

Such was the stamina of the Iowa team that coaches everywhere were surprised that only two Iowa backfield men carried the ball on offense—Aubrey Devine at quarterback and Gordon Locke at fullback.

Iowa earned nationwide acclaim for the glorious season of 1921 and every man on the team was given a place on some honorary team or another. Quarterback and team captain Aubrey Devine became the first Iowan ever given first team recognition on Walter Camp’s honor team.

Long after he left Iowa, Coach Howard Jones said Devine was “the greatest all-around backfield man I have ever coached or seen in the modern game. Others may have been great in open field running, there may have been better punters or drop kickers, but I have never known any backfield man whose accomplishments in running, punting, dropkicking, and forward passing combined equal those of Aubrey Devine. In addition, he was a leader and field general of the highest type.”

Fred "Duke" Slater was probably the greatest offensive tackle ever to play for Iowa.
Fred "Duke" Slater

Duke Slater was unanimous choice for all-conference and all-Western tackle, being selected for three all-American teams, but his greatest honors came years later. Described as a gentlemen both on the field and off, Slater—probably the greatest offensive tackle ever to play for Iowa—was named to the sports writers’ all-time all-American eleven in 1946. In 1951, he was selected to the National Football Hall of Fame.

November 30
The Hawkeyes were forced to turn down an invitation to play the University of California in the Rose Bowl. The Board in Control opposed postseason competition and a Big Ten ruling prevented it.



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Gridiron Glory - 100 + Years of Iowa Hawkeye Football