Legendary Patriots Captain & 3-Time Super Bowl Champion Retires

Matthew Slater

Getty Images Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots

The seasons of change continue in Foxborough as the New England Patriots prepare to bid farewell to one of their most beloved captains, Matthew Slater, who officially announced his retirement on February 20 via the team’s social media platforms. Slater leaves behind an illustrious career adorned with numerous accolades and championships. Slater was a captain for the Patriots for 13 consecutive seasons.

A mainstay in Foxborough, Slater retires as a three-time Super Bowl champion. His remarkable consistency and leadership earned him recognition as a five-time first-team All-Pro, a three-time second-team All-Pro, and a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. Notably, he was honored with the Bart Starr Award in 2017 and the Art Rooney Award in 2021, underscoring his exemplary character and sportsmanship on and off the field.

Slater’s father is Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater. The elder Slater also spent his entire career with one organization, spending 19 seasons with the Rams franchise between Los Angeles and the organization’s move to St. Louis. Slater mentioned his dad in his retirement announcement.

“Dad, you blazed the trail,” Slater wrote. “You set the standard. I hope I didn’t miss anything. I hope I followed those footsteps well. It was never a burden. Only a blessing. A gift from the Lord.”

Matthew Slater’s Football Journey

Initially drafted by the Patriots as a receiver out of UCLA in 2008, Slater’s journey in the NFL took an unexpected turn when he redirected his focus toward special teams. This decision proved instrumental in shaping his career, as he emerged as one of the league’s premier third-phase players. Despite initial uncertainties about his roster spot, Slater’s dedication and determination propelled him to success, culminating in a remarkable 16-season tenure with the Patriots.

In a 2022 quote to ESPN, former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick referred to Slater as one of the best Special Teams players in the history of the NFL and likened him to Tom Brady on offense and Lawrence Taylor on defense.

“Certainly Matt Slater will go up there, in the kicking game, with Brady on offense and Taylor on defense,” Belichick said to ESPN. “So I feel very, very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach all the players, but I’d say those three in particular.”

Matthew Slater is an All-Time Patriot

With 239 games under his belt, Slater ranks second in franchise history in games played, behind legendary Patriots QB Tom Brady. Slater never formally announced his retirement during the 2023 season, but his teammates, fans, and the media had a good idea it would be his final season. The questions before his final game in a Patriots uniform reflected that, as did his answers.

“I feel very appreciated by the people in the building, just thankful for how everyone has treated me this week, and the thanks they’ve expressed and things like that,” Slater said in a January 6 press conference at Gillette Stadium. “I’m sure it’ll be emotional Sunday, for obvious reasons, but my job is to focus on playing football, and I’ve always tried to do my job. That’s not going to change on Sunday.”

In warmups before his final game on January 7, Slater’s Patriot teammates donned shirts to honor the legendary Patriots captain.

The End of an Era in Foxborough

Slater’s decision to retire marks the end of an era for the Patriots, as he was one of the main cogs in the Belichick/Brady era in Foxborough. Fans tuned in after countless Patriot victories as Slater led the breakdown in the team huddle following post-game speeches with his trademark call, “Awww yeah!”

As Slater hangs up his cleats, he leaves behind a legacy defined by integrity, leadership and excellence. His contributions to the Patriots’ success and his unwavering commitment to the game will be remembered fondly by fans and teammates. While his presence on the field will be missed, Slater’s influence and legacy will always be remembered by Patriots fans. Slater will undoubtedly be a Patriot Hall of Famer and possibly an NFL Hall of Famer. Bill Belichick even stated his case in a press conference on Friday, December 29, at Gillette Stadium.

“I think Slater really is eventually going to be a Hall of Fame candidate,” Belichick stated. “As a coverage player, not as a specialist and he’s not a returner. So, he’s in a very unique category, one that I don’t think is represented in the Hall of Fame. 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.”

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