‘Once-in-a-lifetime person’: Kraft, Belichick, Mayo react to Matt Slater’s retirement from Patriots

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Beloved New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater announced his retirement from the National Football League Tuesday after 16 seasons in Foxboro.

The special teams extraordinaire played in 239 career games with the Patriots, racking up 191 tackles, earning 10 Pro Bowl Selections, and winning three Super Bowl titles.

In a statement posted on Patriots.com, Slater said his father, Jackie, inspired him to play professional football from an early age.

“For as long as I can remember, football has been one of the passions of my heart. Some of my earliest memories of the game are of watching my dad prepare for training camp with the Los Angeles Rams. We spent every summer in Meridian, Mississippi visiting my grandparents. During those hot summer days in Meridian, I would often tag along with my dad to the local high school field. While I sat in the shade asking for snow cones, my father would methodically put himself through the paces. I remember those days more clearly than I remember his games.” Slater explained. “They weren’t glamorous. There was no crowd around to cheer him on. There were no lights flashing. There were no critics critiquing. Just a man, my hero, dedicating himself to the game he loved so much. Never burdened by the work, he understood it was a blessing to do what he loved. It was a gift from the Lord. To experience the love that my hero had for the game in word and deed was transformative. I soon began to develop those same feelings for the game that had been so good to our family.”

Slater also shared a message for Patriots Nation, thanking them for their unwavering support over the years.

“Pats Nation, it has been an honor to represent the silver, red, white, and blue for 16 years. Thank you for cheering, challenging and supporting our team each and every year,” Slater said. “To the people of New England, thank you for welcoming my family and me into your community and allowing us to call New England home. We are beyond humbled and blessed. You the fans make an NFL player’s experience what it is. Thank you for supporting not only me but our great game.”

A message from Matthew Slater.

Posted by New England Patriots on Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Slater then thanked Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his longtime coach Bill Belichick for allowing him to play in the NFL and having a continued belief in him. The Patriots drafted Slater out of UCLA in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.

Belichick issued a heartfelt statement on Slater’s retirement via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime person, and the best core special teams player in NFL history.”

“Matthew Slater deserves every accolade someone could receive. He is a once-in-a-lifetime person, and the best core special teams player in NFL history. His daily, weekly, and yearly work ethic, paved the way for his unsurpassed performance. Matthew is the finest example of what an intense competitor and human being should be,” Belichick said in the statement. He has been a great role model for the teams players & coaches) that I have coached. Matthew is exceedingly kind, and supremely loved and respected by all his peers. I am one of many who feel incredibly blessed to be his teammate, coach, and friend.”

In a statement shared by the Patriots, Kraft credited Slater for the positive impact he had on the “many lives he touched, both on and off the field.”

“Matthew Slater wasn’t just a special teams player for the Patriots. He was a special team player who helped us win three Super Bowls and made a positive impact on the many lives he touched, both on and off the field. On the field, his 10 Pro Bowl appearances will likely earn him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day alongside his father. Off the field, he will be remembered for so much more. He is a role model, not just for young players, but for everyone,” Kraft said. “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. On behalf of the New England Patriots, I want to express our deepest gratitude to Matthew, in partnership with his wife Shahrzad and the entire Slater family, for his remarkable 16-year Patriots career. Matthew’s dedication, leadership, and talent have been instrumental to our success, and his impact extends far beyond the field. His character and commitment to our organization, his teammates, and the game of football are unparalleled. We are all better for knowing Matthew Slater, and while we will miss his presence on the field, we look forward to celebrating his many future contributions and accomplishments. We know there will be many.”

New Patriots head coach and former teammate of Slater, Jerod Mayo, also issued a statement on the retirement announcement, calling him “an incredible human being, and an extraordinary father, husband, son, friend, and teammate.”

“Matthew Slater – my friend, former co-captain, three-time Super Bowl Champion, five-time first-team All-Pro and 10-time Pro-Bowler – is an all-time great. He is an incredible human being and an extraordinary father, husband, son, friend, and teammate, to name just a few of the many key roles he plays for countless people who have been fortunate enough to be graced by his presence,” Mayo said.

Mayo and Slater both entered the NFL together in 2008.

“I was fortunate to play my entire career with him. Matthew’s leadership, attitude, intelligence, and dedication created a professional football career that will most definitely earn him enshrinement in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Patriots Hall of Fame,” Mayo added.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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