Six-time New England Patriots Pro Bowl special-teams player Matthew Slater believed he was headed to Bible study on Monday.

Patriots’ Matthew Slater Receives Prestigious Bart Starr Award

Instead, he found out in front of teammates and coaches that he was voted by his NFL peers to be honored with the prestigious Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award.

The award is given to the NFL player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.”

Slater’s father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, was given the Bart Starr Award in 1996. He and Matthew are the first father-son duo to earn the award. Jackie Slater played as an offensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams.


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“It was really emotional for me,” Slater said Wednesday morning. “I really value the human element of football. I really value the relationships I’ve made with people over the years. All that stems from the faith I have in God and the way I was raised by my parents.

“I’ve always tried to keep in perspective that I’m no different than anyone else because I play football. It’s just a job. At the end of the day, the connection you make with people, the way you treat people, and the things you try to stand for and believe in, although it may not be perfect at times it’s something that is very important to me.”

The Patriots actually surprised Slater with the news that he’d won the award.

The 31-year-old though he was going to the team’s traditional Monday Bible study led by character coach/team development staffer Jack Easterby, as the time of that had been pushed back slightly from usual. When Slater arrived, he saw about 60 people in the room, including coaches, and began to suspect something was up.

Easterby then began by reading off a sheet, as he normally would during a traditional Bible study, before his phone rang. Slater thought that was odd, and an older woman’s voice was on the line who ultimately “asked for Matt.”

Slater said he believed that it might be in reference to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, but instead learned it was in fact the wife of Bart Starr, Cherry, who was asking to speak with him.

“She tells me I win the award. They had the cameras in there, and my allergies started acting up a little bit. Seasonal allergies there,” Slater said in a lighthearted reference to tears he shed.

“They set me up pretty good. … I’m just blown away by it. I really am.”

Slater has been the Patriots’ special teams captain since 2011.

GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 01: Matthew Slater #18 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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