Earlier this month, all 32 NFL clubs announced their nominees for this year’s Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. The trophy, named after the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner, is handed out annually since 2014 to a player who “best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.”
The New England Patriots, just like they did the previous three seasons, went with special teams ace Matthew Slater as their pick. Slater was an easy choice given that he is a 10-year team captain, the Patriots’ representative at the NFL Players Association, and one of the league’s most respected players both on the field and in the locker room.
It was therefore equally unsurprising to see him advance to the next round and be announced as one of eight finalists on Tuesday:
- QB Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
- DE Calais Campbell, Baltimore Ravens
- LB Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- DT Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
- DE Justin Houston, Indianapolis Colts
- FB Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers
- C Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
- WR Matthew Slater, New England Patriots
A panel of four former players, including former Patriots running back Curtis Martin, voted for the finalists. Now, the decision will be handed over to the players: each team’s player body will vote as one, with teams unable to vote for their own candidates. The winner of the award will be announced as part of the NFL Honors ceremony ahead of Super Bowl 55. Not only will he receive a trophy but also a $25,000 donation to a charity of his choice.
This is not an unfamiliar spot to be in for Slater, who was also named a finalist in 2019 before ultimately coming up short in the end (running back Adrian Peterson won the award last year). Entering 2020’s final round, he is one of only two multiple-time finalists alongside Calais Campbell, who has made it this far in three straight years.