Matthew Wilson Slater, the son of Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater, was born on September 9, 1985 in Baldwin Park, CA. After a high school career where he excelled in track and football, Matthew went on to the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) where he spent time at wide receiver and defensive back. Where Slater really made his mark on the football field though was special teams, as he excelled in kick coverage and was dynamic as a kick returner. In 2007, his senior year at UCLA, Slater totaled 25 tackles and averaged over 29 yards on 34 kickoff returns with three touchdowns. That prowess on special-teams caught the eye of the New England Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick, who drafted Slater with the 153rd pick of the 2008 NFL Draft.
In New England, Matthew immediately made an impact on the field and in the community. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times, as well as having been elected by his Patriots’ teammates to be the Captain of special teams for the last six years. In 2016, Slater was named an AP All-Pro Special Teams Player. Off the field, Matt has given his time and efforts to multiple charities such as Play 60, United Way, Boston Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish, and Read between the Lines. Then there was the time he organized the Matt vs. Matt fundraiser for Samaritan’s Purse to support the victims of Hurricane Matthew, raising over $60,000 for the relief efforts. In 2016 Slater received the Ron Burton Community Service Award for his dedication to the community of New England.
The way Matt looks at it, football is a vehicle God has given him to reach people . “I think everything I do, I do for an audience of one,” Slater said, referring to God. “And I know I’m blessed to have the opportunity I have and I feel that I’m in debt and I feel I have to maximize that opportunity. Obviously as I work and prepare to play football, I’m always going to give everything I have. But I think on the back end, where you get off the football field, the relationships with people you build, especially in the locker room and the community and in your home, that’s very important.”
On January 4th, 2017 Matthew Slater was named the recipient of the annual Bart Starr Award, given to the NFL player who best exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field. For the New England Patriots special-teams Ace, the honor held special meaning, as his father, Jackie Slater also won the Award in 1996 while playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Speaking to the media after the news broke, Matt kept the Award, and his NFL career in perspective.
“It was really emotional for me,” Slater said that morning. “I really value the human element of football. I really value the relationships I’ve made with people over the years. All that stems from the faith I have in God and the way I was raised by my parents. I’ve always tried to keep in perspective that I’m no different than anyone else because I play football. It’s just a job. At the end of the day, the connection you make with people, the way you treat people, and the things you try to stand for and believe in, although it may not be perfect at times it’s something that is very important to me.”
Honors aside, Matt, while admitting to being far from perfect, has already declared his intentions for his life once his playing days are done. He has decided he wants to enter the ministry. “I’ve always had a passion for the ministry. [Those who have] covered me for a while now know how important my faith is to me. That’s something I’ve always wanted to pursue,” he said. “Understanding that football has never been a guarantee for me, it’s something I’ve always been prepared to move on and do. I have a passion for working with people, especially with children. That’s something I still plan on pursuing, whether it’s here, back in California, or wherever we end up as a family.”
Those plans are still a bit down the road though, as Slater is 31 years old and will look to help the Patriots in 2017 win their third Super Bowl in four years.
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