Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has won the Bart Starr Award, which is given to a player who "best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community."
Slater is the first-ever Patriot to win the award, but he's not the first in his family to win it. His father, Hall-of-Famer Jackie Slater won the award in 1996.
News about Slater's award got to the Patriots before it actually reached him, so the team decided to surprise him.
“They set me up pretty good,” Slater said Wednesday morning. “We have our Bible study on Mondays after the games, and they changed the time of the Bible study, made it a little bit later. The schedule adjusts here, and (team chaplain) Jack Easterby tells me, ‘Hey, see you at Bible study tomorrow.’ (I think), yeah, everything’s status quo. And I go into the Bible study, and there’s, like, 60 guys in there and coaches. I’m like, ‘Man, we’re about to have a good Bible study. This is going to be good.’
“And then (Patriots VP of media relations) Stacey James is in there and the camera crew, and I’m like, I don’t know if we’re doing a playoff-edition Bible study for the fans, but this is great. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, Jack, you’d better have a good one today, man. You’ve got to step it up.’ “Jack’s got the sheet that he usually has, and he goes through some things, and then his phone starts ringing. And I’m like, ‘Man, Jack, you’ve got to tighten up. You can’t have your phone ringing in here. We’ve got all these people.’ And he answers the phone, and it’s an older woman on the phone. She’s looking for Jack Easterby. They exchange a little bit, and then she’s like, ‘Is Matt there? I’m looking for Matt.’
“And I’m like, ‘Where’s (Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia)? Is he in here?’ I’m not thinking me. They call me down, and the woman on the phone is Mrs. Starr. She tells me I won the award. And they have the cameras in there, and my allergies start acting up a little bit. Seasonal allergies there.
“Then she told me my dad and I are the first father-son to win this award, and I don’t know. I’m just blown away by it. I really am.”
Great move by the team to recognize Slater's accomplishment. It shows the chemistry they have in and outside the locker room and that they truly care for one another. Slater, a special teams captain since 2011, is more than deserving of such an award.