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Jun12WedThe NFL's Matthew Slater wouldn't be the man he is without his dad. June 12, 2019 by Jayne Thurber-Smith
When the New England Patriots’ Matthew Slater won his second of three Super Bowl rings in February 2017, his father and Hall of Famer Jackie Slater was there to congratulate him. Matthew gave his dad a huge hug, tearfully telling the nearby cameraman who captured it: “This is my hero here! I was thinking about him all the game. I’m just so thankful for my dad.”
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- Faith & Friends
Besides watching his son’s team win the Super Bowl, that weekend Jackie was also on hand at the annual Super Bowl breakfast. On that morning, Matthew was awarded the Bart Starr Award, given annually by his peers to a player who demonstrates strength of character on and off the field. Jackie, who played 20 years for the Los Angeles Rams organization, had received the very same honour in 1996.
Matthew says the greatest gift Jackie gave him was sharing his faith in God, and living that faith out visibly in his commitment to him and his brother, David, and to his wife of 42 years, Annie.
Matthew deeply appreciates the fine example Jackie has set of what it takes to be a good man, husband and father. He hopes to follow in his footsteps as he parents his own young children, Jeremiah and Hannah, with his wife, Shahrzad.
“Being involved in your child’s life is so important,” Matthew comments. “Just being there, that’s what makes a great dad, and passing on wisdom you’ve gained. The call to being a dad is not to be perfect but to show you care by investing your time and love.
“I am thankful that my parents are godly parents,” Matthew continues. “When we were growing up, Dad often read the Bible to my brother and me. He would act out the stories, like David fighting Goliath, and add fun details. One night when I was seven, he laid out God’s plan of salvation to me, and I accepted the Lord into my life that night. Ever since, I’ve continued to grow in understanding of God’s Word and grace.”
Faith in Play
Matthew has been a Patriot for 11 years now and would love to walk in his father’s football footsteps by playing out his entire career with one team.
“I’m very humbled to be in my position here, and thankful for the opportunity,” he says. “I’ve been blessed to stay in one place, considering the nature of our business. I am very proud and thankful to have been with New England that long. The Lord is the number 1, number 2, number 3 reason for it and I just try to hold up my end of the bargain. He preserves my health, and I work hard as a way to say thanks. It also helps to be surrounded by such great people.”
One of the few players remaining from when he first joined the team is Tom Brady, or “Thomas” to Matthew.
“I might be the only guy who calls him that!” Matthew laughs. “Thomas and I often work out next to each other in the stretch line during practice. He always keeps things positive, and we have a great time. We consider ourselves two of the luckiest guys in the world.”
As an “old-timer” and Special Teams captain, Matthew makes sure to mentor some of the newcomers.
“I always tell the guys to control the things they can control,” he says. “That sounds simple but often they stress over everything else, things like if they’re going to get any playing time and how much. They should show up with a good attitude and work hard. Lots of things in football and in life are beyond our control. That’s where faith comes into play.”
Raised to Serve
Matthew’s favourite Bible verse is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of people use that verse out of context,” he comments. “They think that God’s always going to work things out for them. What the verse really means is that God sometimes puts us in situations we might not be crazy about, but the ultimate goal is to make us like Him and show us who He is. I try to be thankful for adversity because it makes me depend on Him, and that’s good.”
Matthew also lives by Luke 12:48, which reminds us to whom much is given much is required. He is one of the team’s most active players in community service.
“It’s important to be aware of how blessed we are,” he says. “It’s also important to give back and build relationships, to plug in and connect with those less fortunate, and spread the love of the gospel. My wife feels the same desire to give back, and now that our kids are older and more aware of what’s going on, volunteering as a family allows us to spend time together learning valuable lessons.
“It’s what I was raised to do.”
Main photo: Courtesy of the New England Patriots/Eric J. Adler
Secondary photo: Courtesy of the New England Patriots/Jim Mahoney