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The Patriots Surprising Matthew Slater with the Bart Starr Award Will Get You Right in the Feels


If there’s one thing that could be better in the middle of a bye week than hearing a class act like Matthew Slater won the NFL’s Bart Starr Award for character and leadership exactly 20 years after his dad did, it’s watching the video of the way the team sprung the news on him. The only downside is, like all team videos, it’s unembeddable (get out of the Dark Ages, NFL), but you can find it here. If you’re able to handle a room filled with testosterone, affection and pride, invest the two minutes it will take you. But be forewarned: When you see Tom Brady and Mr. Kraft looking on, you will be in the Splash Zone. The first two rows WILL GET WET.

If you can’t, let me give you the story in Slater’s own words:

They set me up pretty good. We have our Bible study on Mondays after the games, and they changed the time of the Bible study, made it a little bit later. The schedule adjusts here, and (team chaplain) Jack Easterby tells me, ‘Hey, see you at Bible study tomorrow.’ (I think), yeah, everything’s status quo. And I go into the Bible study, and there’s, like, 60 guys in there and coaches. I’m like, ‘Man, we’re about to have a good Bible study. This is going to be good.’
And then Stacey James is in there and the camera crew, and I’m like, I don’t know if we’re doing a playoff-edition Bible study for the fans, but this is great. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, Jack, you’d better have a good one today, man. You’ve got to step it up.’ “Jack’s got the sheet that he usually has, and he goes through some things, and then his phone starts ringing. And I’m like, ‘Man, Jack, you’ve got to tighten up. You can’t have your phone ringing in here. We’ve got all these people.’
And he answers the phone, and it’s an older woman on the phone. She’s looking for Jack Easterby. They exchange a little bit, and then she’s like, ‘Is Matt there? I’m looking for Matt.’
And I’m like, ‘Where’s (Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia)? Is he in here?’ I’m not thinking me. They call me down, and the woman on the phone is Mrs. Starr. She tells me I won the award. And they have the cameras in there, and my allergies start acting up a little bit. Seasonal allergies there.
Then she told me my dad and I are the first father-son to win this award, and I don’t know. I’m just blown away by it. I really am.

[OK, Thornton. You’re a grown man. Composure yourself. Deep breath. Annnd, begin.] I won’t even pretend to be objective at a moment like this. At WEEI, I got to interview Matthew Slater on a semi-weekly basis and he’s such a decent, cerebral and considerate guy I have to recuse myself. Sure, he gave you the same evasive non-answers all Patriots do. But he did it in such a thoughtful and articulate way, he’s impossible not to like. Which we can all assume, since he’s a career special teamer who inherited the coveted “Locker Room Breakdown” honors from none other than Tedy Bruschi. And now, he’s the recipient of the most emotional moment since Brady’s return 11 weeks ago. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. Now I just have to deal with the dust in this place.