Happy 33rd birthday to seven time Pro Bowler and two time Super Bowl Champion, Matthew Slater.
As a die-hard Patriots fan, it would only be right to take a look back at Matthew Slater’s journey to and through the NFL.
High School/College Career
Son of NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater and his wife Annie, Matthew would play his high school football at Servite High School in Anaheim, California. Slater would have a combined total of 62 receptions for 1040 yards and seven touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons and would be a two-time All-Serra League selection. He would also be named an All-West selection by Prep Star and a three-star selection by Rivals.com in his senior season.
On top of his success on the football field, Slater also dominated in track. He was named the 2003 Orange County Register Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year and still holds school records in the 100 and 200 meters.
Slater would attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he would major in political science and history. He would be red-shirted as a freshman due to a turf toe injury and would act as a reserve wide receiver for the Bruins the following year. In Slater’s red-shirt junior season, he would play 13 games as a defensive back, although made his largest impact on special teams as a part of kick coverage. As a senior, Slater would add returning kicks to his repertoire, as he would average 29-yards per kickoff return and would score three return touchdowns, both ranking highest among Pac-10 returners. His 986 kickoff return yards were also a new UCLA single-season record.
Slater was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In his rookie season, he would play in 14 games, registering 12 tackles on special teams, while returning 11 kicks for 155 yards.
In 2009, Slater would play a similar role, acting as a reserve receiver and being part of kickoff coverage, although this season he would improve his yards per return average from 14.1 to 24.5. Most notably, Slater would have two 46-yard kickoff returns and one special teams tackle in the Patriots Wild Card loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
In 2010, Slater’s role was changed, as he no longer returned kicks or punts, and was not used as a reserve wide receiver. Instead, Slater was a pure kickoff coverage specialist, leading the Patriots in special teams tackles with 21.
In 2011, Slater would be voted New England’s special teams captain by his teammates and would see an increased role on the field. He would make significant contributions on all three sides of the ball, leading New England in special teams tackles with 17, forcing a fumble as a defensive back, and catching a 46-yard pass from Tom Brady which helped set up the Patriots first touchdown of the season. Slater would be named to the 2012 AFC Pro Bowl team and 2011 Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Pro team, making Matthew and Jackie one of four active father-son families to be selected to at least one Pro Bowl each. That season, the Patriots would reach Super Bowl XLVI with a perfect record, although they would fall short to the New York Giants.
Slater would sign a three-year deal in 2012 and would remain New England’s special teams captain. He would help lead the Patriots to a 12-4 record, although they would lose in the Conference Championship to the Baltimore Ravens. Slater would be selected to the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season as a special teamer, and would once again be selected to the PFWA All-Pro team.
In 2013, Slater continued being a reliable special teamer for New England, and despite missing four games to injury, he was still voted to the Pro Bowl. The 2014 season would be more of the same for Slater, as he would be selected for his fourth Pro-Bowl and third PFWA All-Pro team, although his largest accomplishment that season would be winning Super Bowl XLIX over the Seattle Seahawks on a miraculous Malcolm Butler interception.
In 2015, you guessed it, another Pro Bowl appearance for Slater, who now paired with his father, had the second most Pro Bowl selections among father-son combos, behind only Peyton and Archie Manning. In 2016, Slater signed a six-year contract extension with New England and continued his dominance on and off the field. He would be selected to a sixth consecutive Pro Bowl and fourth All-Pro team.
His greatest achievement this season may have been winning the Bart Starr Award, which is given to a player who exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field. Of course, Jackie won this award in 1996, making himself and his son the first combination to both win the awards. Slater played a key role in the Patriots Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons, although his most notable action in the game may have been his correct call of the coin toss in overtime, which gave the Patriots possession of the ball to begin play.
In 2017, despite missing four games at the beginning of the season, Slater would be named to the Pro Bowl for a seventh consecutive time, tying him with Steve Tasker for most among special teamers. Unfortunately for Slater, the Patriots would eventually lose in the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles. Slater has since signed a two-year extension with New England, and will hopefully remain there for the entirety of his career.
Off of the Field
Slater was awarded the New England Patriots 11th Ron Burton Community Service Award for his strong commitment to community service and leadership. Also, he is currently the United Way representative of the New England Patriots and is working with organizations in the greater Boston area to recruit volunteers as a part of the wider Patriots Celebrate Volunteerism Campaign.
In 2016, Slater hosted a fundraiser to benefit victims of hurricane Matthew, which raised over $60,000 for Samaritan’s Purse, which is an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization. Also, Slater is a vocal Christian athlete and often mentions his faith when addressing the media.
Once again, thank you, Matthew Slater, for your contributions on and off the field, and we wish you a happy birthday!