Jackie Slater made seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro first teams, and was the first to play 20 seasons with one franchise (Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams). His No. 78 jersey is retired in St. Louis, and he has a plaque in Canton.
There is one thing he does not have: A ring.
His son, Patriots wide receiver, safety and special teamer, Matthew, has a chance to get family redemption Sunday when New England faces the Giants in the Super Bowl.
"He's told me not to take this time for granted," Matthew said Tuesday. "For him to play 20 years and never win one, I know it's kind of a sting to him because he was the ultimate team player."
Jackie made it the big time once. In 1979, Slater's Rams won road playoff games at Dallas and Tampa to reach Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena. Playing virtually in their home city against the Steelers, the Rams took a 19-17 lead into the fourth quarter. But Terry Bradshaw and friends turned the tide in the final minutes for 31-19 Pittsburgh victory.
"He said do everything you can do to ensure you have no regrets at the end of the day," Matthew said. "As far as preparation throughout the week, as far as rest to dieting and getting rid of all the distractions, just make sure you put yourself in a position where you have no regrets."
Growing up in an NFL household, Matthew has special appreciation of playing in the Super Bowl. Jackie, who played until age 41, had Matthew watch Super Bowl XIV game film as a child. The father instilled the motto of "Super Bowl or bust" in his son.
"As a little kid when you dream of playing in the NFL, you dream of playing in the big game and making the big play," Matthew said. "Ever since I can remember, growing up, watching Super Bowls and watching those games, I've dreamed of this moment and to actually take the field Sunday and actually have the chance to play in one, it will be a true blessing."
If Matthew wins Sunday, the bling on his ring finger will be one more thing to distinguish himself from his dad. Matthew, at 6-0 and 200 pounds, is a perfect fit for speed positions such as receiver, safety and special teamer. Jackie, at 6-4 and 277, was built to be an elite blocker. Their dimensions leave Matthew with one possible genetic conclusion.
"You got to ask my mom," he said. "I guess I got her genes. I just didn't get his size. The Lord didn't mean for me to be a big guy, so I just took what I had and tried to make the best of it and go out and take advantages of the opportunities I've had. If there's one thing I like to think I got from him, it's work ethic. If nothing else, that's gotten me a long way."
Jackie got a long way too, but he never made it all the way.
Matthew can. His chance comes Sunday.
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