Matthew Slater’s initial goal was a realistic one.
The 153rd overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft did not first set out to become a six-time captain or a six-time Pro Bowler. He didn’t have four first-team All-Pro selections written down on his to-do list.
Slater didn’t have two-time Super Bowl Champion, Bart Starr Man of the Year, or Ron Burton Community Service Award recipient on there, either.
The UCLA product kept it simple upon landing in Foxborough as a rookie.
“I dreamed and hoped and prayed that I’d have an opportunity to do this. I came here hoping they wouldn’t cut me before I got my signing bonus,” Slater told reporters Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. “That was my goal.”
The 31-year-old Slater stands far removed from that even-keeled aspiration now. He’s hung around long enough to keep his rookie signing bonus. He’s been on the New England Patriots’ roster longer than all but two of his teammates – quarterback Tom Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski – and he’s only one Pro Bowl nod short of his Hall of Fame Father, Jackie.
Considering the de-facto wide receiver didn’t catch a pass during his Bruins career and bounced around between the offensive and defensive sides before carving a permanent place on special teams, few could have foreseen things panning out the way they have.
“Just hoping to stick around on the practice squad, just trying to find a way,” he recalled. “I’ve been really blessed to have the experience that I’ve had here, build the relationships that I’ve had, and be a part of a successful organization. I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of – the number of games that I’ve been able to be a part of in a winning effort.”
Slater has caught one pass, handled two rushing attempts, and returned 40 kickoffs over his 132 regular-season and 17 postseason games with New England. But the 6-foot, 205-pounder has also registered 134 tackles and forced a fumble while earning double- and even triple-teams, and reverence as one of the top gunners of the past decade.
“I’ve always been the type of player that has felt I’ve never done enough,” Slater said. “I’m always feeling like I need to do a little bit more. It’ll be no different this year. I don’t think you sit back and rest as an older guy. I think you need to do a little bit more.”
Slater checks in as the fifth-oldest player on the Patriots’ current 66-man roster. And with the offseason workout program set to kick off next Monday, he checks in with few goals left unattained on his resume.
But the former fifth-rounder’s outlook in the spring and summer of 2008 is quite similar to the one he has now.
Slater, who is under contract through 2017, still plans on hanging around until he’s asked to leave.
“As long as my body is able and Coach [Bill] Belichick will have me around here, I’m up for the challenge,” Slater said. “I still love the game of football. It’s something that I’m very passionate about. I think I have more fun with it now than I did as a rookie. I’m thankful for the opportunity I have here, and I’m just going to enjoy every day that I have.”