Anybody who knows football knows and acknowledges the greatness of the ageless wonder that is Tom Brady, the rambunctious and once dominant Rob Gronkowski and the crafty route running Julian Edelman. Brady and Gronk are considered a virtual lock to be first-ballot Hall of Famers five years after their playing careers end and Edelman is even now being brought up in Hall of Fame conversation after winning Superbowl MVP last week.
There’s another member of the New England Patriots that is worthy of such an honor will assuredly join his fellow three-time Superbowl champions, six-time in Brady’s case, and that is special teams ace Matthew Slater.
Since he entered the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft after the Pats selected him 153rd overall out of UCLA, he has been the best and most consistent special teams player in the entire league being voted to seven pro bowls and was voted to the first team all-pro squad four times by the Pro Football Writers and the Associated Press.
The son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater (Class of 2001), No.18 for the Patriots will eventually join his father and Brady in Canton someday. Slater has been a model of consistency, continues to exemplify the Patriot way and follows the phrase made famous by his Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Belichick, “Just do your job” as holy write.
He has been “Mr. Do It All” on every special teams unit for New England and has been a team captain for the majority of his tenure with the organization. He universally recognized as the best gunner in the league even in his 11th season going into his 12th. He is often the first man on the other side of the field to down punts and making the first contact with the opposing team’s returners.
Even though Slater was originally drafted and is still to this day listed on the Patriots roster as a wide receiver, he has recorded just one career catch on just eight career targets and has just two career rushes for a combined 11 yards.
The special teams extraordinaire has made a name for himself and built his legacy on his play in that phase of the game. He has amassed 637 kick return yards, the majority of which he accumulated in his first two seasons in the league, which brings his career all-purpose yards to 694.
He has tallied 64 tackles in his career if you include the postseason, he has 83, with well over half of them be credited as solo takedowns and he even forced a fumble during his first of many pro bowl campaigns.
The grand total of his stats doesn’t depict, represent or do justice to how integral he has been to the success of the Patriot’s special teams over the years, nor does it speak volumes of the type of leader he has been on the field, in the locker room, and in the community.
While his father Jackie only had to wait six years after his retirement following the 1995 season to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame an inherit special teams biased might keep his son off the list of finalist for a bit longer than he had to, but make no mistake, the Patriots Matthew Slater will go down as one of if not the best pure special teams player of all time when its all said and done.