FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has gotten used to running into Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has been a big-play extraordinaire since the pair played on opposing sidelines in the Pac-10.
Slater, who played safety at UCLA, watched the former Cal star torch opponents on a seemingly weekly basis in college, and it's continued again in the NFL. While discussing Jackson on Wednesday, the first thing Slater mentioned was his 72-yard punt return for a touchdown against UCLA in 2006.
"You knew then the kid was going to be special," Slater said. "He's obviously come to this level and proven he's capable of being an explosive, great player in this league. I guess I've known that for a while now. It's going to be challenging for us this week covering him down on these punts. Obviously, the defense, I'm sure they'll be stepping up and getting ready for it. He's a great player. He's got some unique skill sets. He's got some great speed that you can't coach, great at changing direction. He's aggressive as a returner back there, so it's definitely going to be a big challenge for us."
Jackson returned six punts for touchdowns during his three years at Cal, and he also had 22 receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. He had 3,255 all-purpose yards in three seasons.
Slater ranked Jackson up there with the likes of USC running back Reggie Bush, UCLA running back Maurice Jones-Drew (or, "the artist formerly known as Maurice Drew," as Slater put it), USC quarterback Matt Leinart, USC running back LenDale White, Washington State wide receiver Jason Hill and Washington State running back Jerome Harrison as the best players he ever faced in college.
"He was definitely one of the best players that I played against," Slater said. "There was no question he was special, even early on in his career you knew he had some unique abilities."
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