New England Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater will continue to play until his wheels fall off because head coach Bill Belichick loves him. Absolutely loves him.
Slater, who turns 31 this September, has been elected to the past five Pro Bowls and is a three-time All Pro. The Patriots selected Slater in the 5th round of the 2008 draft and he is the third-longest tenured player on the squad, behind quarterback Tom Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The 5’11, 195 lbs special teamer and team captain has moonlighted at both wide receiver and at safety, but his primary role is on special teams, where he has had a great career.
It wouldn’t have happened if his dad had his way.
“I did everything to discourage the football end of sports,” Matthew’s father Jackie Slater said on the Talk of Fame Network, “but he just kept gravitating back toward it. Basketball he played. Soccer he played. Those sports just weren’t exciting enough for him. He liked a lot of action.”
“I just didn’t think he was big enough,” Jackie continued. “When I was 13 years old I was six feet tall and I weighed 245. And I was wearing a size-42 in the waist and a 32 in the inseam. He wasn’t headed in that direction at all, and I’ve always seen football as a big man’s game; always felt a big man is better than a good little man.
“So I didn’t think he was going to be able to fit in, and I certainly wasn’t going to be able to help him as a little guy because I didn’t know anything about what he was doing. So it was just kind of my deal to discourage him and encourage him in a different direction.”
Jackie Slater was a 20-year veteran in the NFL, playing his entire career for the Los Angeles Rams (with one year for the St. Louis Rams) before being elected into the NFL Hall of Fame for his standout play at offensive tackle. Like his son, Jackie was elected to three All Pro first teams, although it’s unlikely that Matthew will make his way to the Hall of Fame.
Despite being the opposite size of his father, Matthew still made his way into the NFL thanks to his team-first mentality and his elite speed.
One person that Matthew has won over is probably the most important one if he wishes to play as long of a career as his father. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick can’t praise Matthew any more than he already has.
“[Matthew Slater is] very well-respected in the locker room,” Belichick said after signing Matthew to an extension in 2014, “not just by the players but by the entire organization by the way he goes about his job, how dependable he is, his work ethic, his attitude, his toughness. He's really such a model player. I'd love to have 53 guys like him.
"We made a decent investment in him because we thought he'd be pretty good. But he's everything and more you could have hoped for, I will say that. His personality, his intelligence, his toughness, his character both on and off the field, his leadership is all exemplary. You couldn't find anything better.”
As Matthew Slater enters his 9th season in the NFL, he will look to continue his reign atop the league’s special teams players and will mentor the young players on the roster, like Brandon King and Kamu Grugier-Hill.
Slater will also be joined by fellow impossible-shoes-to-follow 2008 draftee Chris Long, as the two were the only players selected in that year with Hall of Fame fathers- Long is the son of Hall of Fame pass rusher Howie Long.
Howie, who played across town from Jackie Slater for the Los Angeles Raiders during the exact same time frame, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000. Jackie followed with a 2001 induction. The two battled during their careers, with Jackie calling Howie “the ultimate professional.”
Both Howie and Jackie can watch their sons tear up the field this upcoming season for the Patriots, but Howie likely expected his son to have a lengthy career after being the 2nd overall pick. It’s Jackie that will be watching his son beat the odds.
“If you had told me I’d be watching that young man do some of the things he’s doing,” Jackie said, “I never would’ve believed it.”
Check out Matthew and Chris talking about their fathers below.