New England Sports 366, #10: Matthew Slater
Should a special teams guy be in the Football Hall of Fame?
Yes. And it should be this guy.
Matthew Slater is as good a football player as we’ve ever seen. Listed as a wide receiver on the roster, Slater has one career catch, and yet he has been an absolutely indispensable leader on three Super Bowl championship teams in Foxboro. There’s a reason he’s made the Pro Bowl eight times. He changes games with his coverage of punts and kicks, dictating field position in a way few others ever have. Take Steve Tasker and multiply him by ten and you’ve got Matthew Slater. There are three phases to football - offensive, defense, special teams - and Slater dominates his third.
Still always the first one down the field in coverage at almost 35, Slater blocks punts and downs balls with a preternatural skill. He’s also a vocal leader in the locker room on a par with Tom Brady and Devin McCourty. I cherish the memory of his overtime coin toss call against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, when he knew - knew - that getting the ball first meant a ring. Heads. We want the ball.
Son of Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater, Matt deserves his own bust in Canton. Coach Belichick has compared him to Lawrence Taylor and Randy Moss as guys who are double-teamed on every single play and yet get the job done anyway. He’s a Hall of Fame person, too, deeply involved with charitable community work and his own Christian faith.
There never would have been a second act to this Patriots dynasty without the greatest special teams ace ever to lace them up. Here’s hoping he’s back in Patriots colors this fall alongside the other GOAT.