It’s been quite a year for Matthew Slater, and to think 2017 is only halfway over.
In January, the former Servite High School star, who has been a key member of the New England Patriots the past nine seasons, was named the 2017 Bart Starr Award winner, annually given to the NFL player who most exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field.
It’s an award his father, Jackie Slater, also won during his 19-year career with the Los Angeles Rams, marking the only father and son winners in the award’s history.
A month later, Slater played in his third Super Bowl with the Patriots and was part of the historic 25-point second-half comeback that forced overtime against the Atlanta Falcons.
As is customary of the team captain, Slater walked to midfield for the coin flip to determine possession to start overtime and stuck with what he’d been doing the past six years.
“When my dad was a captain, he called heads his whole career,” Slater told reporters after the game. “I always call heads, and there is a little bit of luck. There is a little bit of a family faith story there. But we go heads, the Slaters call heads.”
Slater won the flip and the Patriots quickly won the game, marching downfield for a touchdown and the Falcons never got the ball.
It was the second Super Bowl win of Slater’s career.
Not bad for someone who was drafted in the fifth round out of UCLA in 2008.
“I dreamed and hoped and prayed that I’d have an opportunity to do this,” Slater told the Providence Journal last spring. “I came here hoping they wouldn’t cut me before I got my signing bonus. That was my goal. As I’ve said many times, just hoping to stick around on the practice squad and just trying to find a way [to make the team]. 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.”
Slater has distinguished himself on the field as a special teams player who excels at punts and kickoffs. He made the Pro Bowl in that capacity each of the past six seasons.
He has distinguished himself off the field for his humanitarian efforts, such as a fundraiser last October to raise money for victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.
Slater is also considered a leader among his peers, holding prayer groups following games with Patriots and players from the opposing team. He’s also become a respected voice in Boston and the surrounding area among the media.
Slater is gearing up for his 10th season in the NFL, a long time for that profession. He doesn’t expect a spot on the team to be waiting for him, that’s why he begins his preparations a little earlier each year.
“I’ve realized how blessed I am to be here for the entirety of my career,” Slater said. “I realize how rare that is, especially for a guy at my position. It’s something I don’t take for granted and it’s something that I’m very proud of. It was one of my goals to spend as long as I could with one franchise and possibly play my entire career there. I’m thankful for the situation I’ve been in the last decade.”