UCLA wide receiver Matthew Slater addresses the New England media during his conference call following being drafted by the New England Patriots with the 153rd overall pick (5th round) in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard the news?
MS: Thanks again for having me. I was very shocked, obviously, and very ecstatic. I've been waiting for this day, to have this opportunity all my life. Watching my dad play growing up and just developing a love for the game. I was just so, so happy and so extremely blessed to be in this situation.
Q: Did you anticipate being drafted today?
MS: I had heard numerous different reports from different teams, but I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure how the draft was going to play itself out, but I'm a strong believer and I have a strong faith so I knew that whatever it was, I was just hoping I would just get an opportunity and things would work out the way they were supposed to. To be drafted and to be drafted by this team --in my opinion the best team in the NFL-- it's just humbling, very humbling and I feel very honored.
Q: What are your memories of watching your dad [Hall of Famer Jackie Slater] play?
MS: The thing that sticks out most in me is the way he worked. It wasn't necessarily the games; the games were great and you get to see that and everybody sees that on Sunday, but I saw the things about my dad that people didn't see: the blood, sweat and tears that he put into this game and how he prepared and the respect that he gave to the gave of football and I think that's something he has passed on to me.
Q: What was your contact with the Patriots prior to the draft?
MS: To be honest with you, I hadn't had any contact with them. I had one phone call exchange where they asked me a few questions, but I had gone and visited several other teams and I wasn't sure if the Patriots had very much interest in me. I wasn't sure at all. And with the draft, there's no telling what could happen; anything is possible. I was just surprised but excited and thankful at the same time.
Q: What were those teams that you visited?
MS: I went to go visit Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Houston, the Giants, the Jets. I was also in Chicago and Jacksonville, so I had made the rounds. But like I said I hadn't heard very much from the Patriots, but I'm very excited at this point and I feel very blessed and it's very humbling.
Q: You mentioned you were surprised. Were you expecting to go in the fifth round or did you have a feeling where you would be drafted?
MS: Like I said, I had mixed reports and I wasn't sure --because of the way my career went at UCLA-- what round I'd be drafted in or if I'd be drafted. I'm not sure where people valued a guy like me, but it's very honoring, very humbling to see that they recognize my efforts on the field and how much I love the game. I'm very excited.
Q: You're listed as a wide receiver, but you've played corner and safety. Do you have a preference where you would like to play?
MS: For me, I'm willing to do whatever coach Belichick and his staff and the organization want me to do. I'm just excited to have an opportunity to keep playing football. I don't have a preference where I play; I just want to be able to help that football team out in whatever way possible. For me, it's doing whatever it takes. Obviously, I look forward to contributing on special teams. That's kind of where I made my mark at UCLA, so I know that will be probably my primary focus right away. Wherever they want to use me, I'm flexible, I don't mind, I'm just ready to work hard for this organization and continue to the great reputation they have around the league for being one of the best teams in the league.
Q: To make their marks early, guys drafted around the fifth round often have to do it on special teams. That's where you carved out a niche for yourself at UCLA, so do you think that will make it an easier transition for you?
MS: It might make it easier; I'm not real sure. But I know that's something I have experience in and something that I love to do, and I'm not sure if everybody feels that same way when it comes to special teams. I know that that's something I'm looking forward to contributing at and luckily I have been around there and I'm looking forward to continuing it in New England.
Q: What are your memories of growing up in NFL locker rooms? Were there any players from back in your father's day that took an interest in you or messed around with you?
MS: Well, a number of guys. I know Leroy Irving was one guy I always had a good relationship with, and that I worked with over the years. He played with my dad for a number of years. Eric Dickerson and guys like that. Later one in my dad's career I was able to spend some time with Isaac Bruce and get to know him through [my father's] affiliation with the Rams. Meeting all those guys was a great experience. Being around there is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to be raised in the locker room around guys, and have a dad that has accomplished the things that he has - I take that as a blessing and I was very fortunate to have that experience.
Q: Are you glad you were more of a receiver/corner/skill player and not a lineman so you didn't have to endure those comparisons with your father?
MS: I thought about that and we've talked about that a lot. I feel if I had been a lineman I probably would have been a pretty good one because I would have a great teacher. But I think I would prefer being able to run up and down the field and having speed as opposed to size. That's what I always tell me dad.
Q: Was Isaac Bruce your idol growing up?
MS: He really was. He's been my favorite player for a while and I was able to spend time with him, like I said, and just talk the game with him. He's the type of guy I look up to because of the type of man he is off the field as well. He's a reverend and faith is something that plays an important role in my life, and probably the most important thing to me is my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So he was a man that I kind of looked at, the way not only he preformed on the field, but the way he was off the field.
Q: You're known as a kick returner, but you're also a big part of the coverage teams. What does it take to be a gunner?
MS: For me, the mindset is relentless effort. You go out there and it's a fight; it's a battle every play down there. But you have to have the desire to get down there, the "want-to" to get down there and make a play. For me, it just comes from the love of the game I have that's been passed on from my dad. I'm just trying to get down there and I want to be the guy to make the tackle every time. I want to be right on the ball, out there having fun with my teammates, and realizing that that's a very important part of the game. That's a part of the game that often goes overlooked at the high school and college level, but it can really help you win and lose ball games, so I take this very seriously.