The UCLA Football Bruins are one of college football’s best programs. In the Super Bowl, Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots is the lone UCLA alumni.
The New England Patriots are set to square off against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII 13 years after their first Super Bowl encounter. Many different colleges are represented in the big game; the UCLA Football Bruins being one of them.
Several California universities are represented on both teams. The most notable being Stanford, who has four representatives (three Patriots and one Eagle) in the Super Bowl. When it comes to Westwood, California, Bruins’ fans can root for Patriots’ wide receiver Matt Slater.
Slater, a Southern California native, played for the UCLA Football Bruins from 2005 to 2007. Listed as a defensive back and a wide receiver, Slater became well known for his ability on special teams. In 2007 Slater became the primary punt returner for the Bruins, scoring three punt returns for a touchdown.
Then, the New England Patriots drafted Slater in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Slater’s NFL career did not get off to a hot start, as his usage was limited. In Slater’s first three seasons he registered just 22 kickoff returns and 39 special teams tackles.
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That all changed when Slater was named special teams’ captain prior to the 2011 season. That is where Slater’s flexibility was shown off.
In typical Patriots’ fashion, Bill Belichick was able to create one of the most versatile players the league had ever seen. Slater could return kicks, led the Patriots in special teams tackles, could line up in the receiving core and even started three games at safety. While Slater no longer exhibits that kind of workload, his usage on the Patriots is still significant.
Despite his flexibility, the Patriots have used Slater almost exclusively on their own kickoffs. While that is not the most desired role in the NFL, it has earned him enough honors to perhaps make it into the Hall of Fame.
Along with his two Super Bowl Rings, Slater is a seven-time Pro Bowler, a four-time First-Team All-Pro and a one-time Second-Team All-Pro. Nobody has been as good as Slater on special teams this decade; while he may not be a star, he is huge for the New England Patriots.
You may not have known Slater’s name before this but now you do. If you have no dog in the fight, any UCLA Football fans should be rooting for Matt Slater.