Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, a captain in his time with the Rams, was obviously thrilled to hear the news.
“He shared a lot about just his playing career with me and what it meant for him to be a leader and a man and how important that was,” the younger Slater said. “The type of man you are is more important at the end of the day than what kind of player you are. Hopefully, I can continue to represent his name proudly and represent the name of this organization the best I can. This is a tremendous honor.”
The ever-humble Slater was overjoyed by the news of his captaincy. After all, he knew that he was fighting for a roster spot just a week ago.
While the three-year veteran was fresh off the best training camp and preseason of his young career, he understood that his role as a special teamer could have made him more expendable. Yet, his passion for the kicking game far outweighs any type of anxiety that he might have around the time of roster cuts.
“I definitely thought I was fighting for a roster spot, and I was,” Slater said. “It is kind of a weird shift to go from that to now being a captain. I’m just grateful for the opportunity and really appreciate that my teammates think that way of me. I’m going to do the best job I can in leading those guys.
“I’d be in year 25 and still play in the kicking game if I could because I just really enjoy the competitive nature of it, the one-on-one battles or two-on-one battles on the outside. It’s fun. I really do enjoy it. It’s something I want to do for the rest of my career, play special teams.”
Slater learned the role from former Patriots special teams ace Larry Izzo, who was with New England during Slater’s rookie season in 2008. Izzo showed Slater that players can indeed make a career out of being a special teamer if the dedication matches the desire.
As a fifth-round draft pick, Slater knew he’d have to contribute on special teams to stick around in the NFL. Since then, it’s become his passion and something he truly loves doing. He even sounds like Bill Belichick when he stresses the importance of winning all three phases of the game.
It’s no wonder why Slater will take control of the special teams unit in 2011, and he said he plans to gain a better understanding of everyone’s role in order to help them succeed, just like he has for the last three seasons.
“There’s no shame in getting your hands dirty and going out there and battling,” Slater said. “We need role players. Everybody can’t be a superstar. Everybody needs to be a star in their role, so I’ve tried to embrace my role and be a star in it.”