Matthew Slater is one of the most respected players not just in the New England Patriots’ locker room — especially post-Tom Brady — but the entire NFL. The special teams ace has been voted a team captain 10 years in a row, works as the Patriots’ representative at the NFL Players Association, and traditionally breaks down the post-game huddle in the locker room. In short: the 35-year-old is among the team’s leaders both on and off the field.
It is therefore no surprise that the eight-time Pro Bowler, who received the prestigious Bart Starr Award in 2017, is listed as the Patriots’ nominee for yet another award — one that was first introduced in 2014: the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, named after the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner. Each of the NFL’s 32 teams has nominated one player and New England picked Slater, as has been announced on Thursday.
In the next step, a panel of former players will determine eight finalists. Each team’s players will then vote as one for a finalist to receive the award in mid-December, with teams unable to vote for their own candidates. The winner of the award will finally be announced as part of the NFL Honors ceremony on the eve of Super Bowl 55 in Tampa. Not only will he receive a trophy but also a $25,000 donation from the league to a charity of his choice.
Slater is no stranger to being nominated for this award: the Patriots have picked him as their player of choice in each of the last three seasons as well, even though he came up empty-handed each time. The Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award is therefore one of the only honors he has not year earned in his distinguished career. Maybe fourth time’s the charm for Slater.