Matthew Slater’s specialty at UCLA was returning kicks.
“I was sitting, watching (Slater) when he returned his first kickoff for a touchdown, and I saw him just running away from people,” said his father, Jackie Slater. “And I thought, I know what the kind of speed you see on Sundays looks like, and I think I just saw it.”
After returning three kickoffs for touchdowns in his senior season at UCLA, the New England Patriots took Matthew Slater in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, just two months after losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Slater returned 22 kicks for an average of 19.3 yards in his first two years in the pros, but his team was unable to make it back to the Super Bowl in either season.
In Slater’s first year as the American Football Conference’s lone special teams Pro Bowler, the Patriots made it back to the Super Bowl, losing to the Giants again.
Seven years later, Slater has picked up another six Pro Bowl nods, and he held the Vince Lombardi Trophy high Sunday for the third time in his career.
Slater’s Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII, and after just one punt in Super Bowl LII, the former Bruin was plenty busy this time around.
The two teams combined for 14 punts and three of the Patriots’ punts were downed inside the 10. The furthest back the Rams were pinned all night, however, was when Slater downed a punt at the 2-yard line. Slater also picked up a special teams tackle.
The California native was playing against his childhood hometown team, but Slater has a few more connections to the Rams than the average fan.
His father, Jackie Slater, played 20 seasons with the Rams, with his final season being the Rams’ first year in St. Louis. Jackie Slater is also a seven-time Pro Bowler and a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but his son said his dad still called him after the game to say how proud he was.
“(Jackie’s) a father first, and I know this was certainly an interesting situation for him,” Matthew Slater said. “As I said all week, my family and I have a lot of respect for the Rams organization. We’ll always be thankful for every opportunity they’ve afforded our family. … But tonight, I’m so glad to be a Patriot.”
Matthew Slater won Super Bowl XLIX, LI and now LII with the Patriots, and he became the first Bruin since Troy Aikman to rack up three rings as a pro.
Former Bruin Darren Andrews was a rookie on the Patriots’ nonfootball injury list this season and will also receive a championship ring.