April 14, 2024

Matthew Slater was a game changer in the NFL.

He could be one in retirement as well.

The former Servite and UCLA standout announced his retirement Tuesday after 16 seasons, all with the New England Patriots. During his time in Foxborough, Mass., Slater won three Super Bowls and was selected to 10 Pro Bowls, more than any special teams player in league history.

“In 2008, I came here as a young man with hopes and dreams,” Slater said in a statement released by the Patriots. “In 2024, I can retire knowing this experience has exceeded any hope or dream I ever had.”

Slater’s father, Jackie Slater, played 20 years in the NFL as an offensive lineman with the Rams. Jackie was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Matthew Slater won’t be eligible to join his father in Canton, Ohio, until 2029. If that happens, the Slaters will be the first father-son duo to be inducted as players. The younger Slater also would make history as the first player who primarily served as a gunner to make the Hall of Fame.

“On the field, his 10 Pro Bowl appearances will likely earn him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “Off the field, he will be remembered for so much more. He is a role model, not just for young players, but for everyone. He is a man of integrity and high moral character who is led by his faith and committed to his family. There is no finer person than Matthew Slater.”

Slater made All-Pac-10 as a kick returner during his senior season at UCLA in 2007. After being drafted in the fifth round by the Patriots the following year, however, Slater’s role changed. He soon became known as one of the league’s top tacklers on special teams.

He had one career touchdown, returning a blocked punt 11 yards during a 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 29, 2019. He also was the team captain who called “heads” going into overtime against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl LI, giving quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots the opportunity to drive down the field and score the game-winning touchdown.

Special teams rarely get voted into the Hall of Fame. Two full-time kickers (Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen) and one punter (Ray Guy) are the only ones at their positions to have been bestowed a gold jacket. Former Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons great Devin Hester will become the first return specialist to receive the honor when he is inducted later this year.

Bill Belichick, who stepped down earlier this year after 24 seasons as Patriots head coach, gave his endorsement to Slater as a future “Hall of Fame candidate” during a news conference last season.

“He’s in a very unique category, one that I don’t think is represented in the Hall of Fame,” Belichick said of Slater during a news conference last season. “But based on what he did during his career, the length of time he did it, and the level he’s done it at … I would say this guy has been as productive as anybody has ever been at his position throughout his entire career, which is very lengthy. I think he’s the best that’s ever done what he’s done.”

A number of Slater’s former teammates gave him a shout-out on Instagram following his announcement. Brady wrote “one of a kind” sandwiched between several heart emojis. Two players mentioned Slater’s worthiness of being immortalized with a bust in Canton.

“Thank you for everything Slate,” wrote defensive back Adrian Phillips, who played for New England from 2020-2023. “See you in the Hall.”

Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona wrote: “Hall of Fame player, teammate, leader, and person. Thank you for everything 18!”


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