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 four seasons, nominated special teams ace Matthew Slater. Slater was an easy choice given that he is a n11-year team captain and one of the league’s most respected players both on and off the field.
It was therefore equally unsurprising to see him advance to the next round and be announced as one of eight finalists on Tuesday:
- WR Matthew Slater, New England Patriots
- QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
- WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
- LB Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- DB Jason McCourty, Miami Dolphins
- DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
- FB Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers
- WR Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
A panel of four former players, including ex-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 LVI. 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 each of the last two years as well. Also joining him among the finalists are two former teammates of him, Brandin Cooks and Jason McCourty.