BOSTON (CBS) — Matthew Slater thought he was going to bible study at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday morning. Instead, he was surprised with one of the NFL’s most prestigious awards.
New England’s special teams captain was awarded The Bart Starr Award, given to the NFL player who best exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field.
“It was really emotional for me,” Slater told reporters on Wednesday. “You guys know well enough by covering me that I really value the human element of football, and really value the relationships I’ve made with people over the years. All of that stems from the faith I have in God and the way I’ve been raised by my parents. I’m far from perfect, but the Lord has done a lot of great things in my life. He’s working on me as a man, a husband and a father. I’ve always tried to keep it in perspective that I’m no different than anyone else because I play football. At the end of the day, the connection you make with people and the way you treat people, the things you try to stand for and believe in, it may not be perfect at times but it’s very important for me.
“It’s hard to put into words. It really is,” said Slater.
Slater’s father, Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater, also won the award in 1996, making them the first father and son to earn the honor. The younger Slater said he was completely caught off guard on Wednesday morning.
“I go into the bible study and there’s like 60 guys in there, and coaches. I’m like ‘Man, we’re going to have a good bible study right now! This is going to be good,'” joked Slater.
That’s when team chaplain Jack Easterby received a phone call. He passed the phone off to Slater, who quickly realized it was Mrs. Starr, who broke the news to an emotional Slater.
“She tells me I won the award, and they had the cameras in there and my allergies started acting up a bit. Seasonal allergies,” Slater joked. “She told me we were the first father-son to win the award, and I’m just blown away by the award. I really am.”
Slater, a six-time Pro Bowler for New England, regularly gives back through the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and volunteers in various children’s ministries throughout the year. He earned the Ron Burton Community Service Award back in 2013 for his dedication to the community.
Slater will be presented with The Bart Starr Award at the Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast during Super Bowl Weekend in Houston.