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Servant Leader

By Matthew Slater, New England Patriots

Published on January 13, 2016

by FCA

This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2016 issue. Subscribe today!

Born: Sept. 9, 1985 Hometown: Orange, California
Height/Weight: 6’0”/210 lbs.
College: UCLA
• Super Bowl XLIX Champion
• Five-time Pro Bowl selection (2011-15)
• Three-time First-Team All-Pro (2011, 2012, 2014)

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Most people know my father, Jackie, as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who spent two decades in the NFL with the Rams organization. But I know him as a devoted father who was solely focused on raising two sons to fear the Lord.

My brother and I always knew we were blessed to grow up in the family and home that we did in Orange, California. Both my dad and my mom were believers who were present in our lives on a daily basis. We became the men we are today because of the example they set for us and how much they cared for us. My love and passion for Christ and the game of football came from my dad, so for me to be able to follow in his footsteps in both of those areas has been the biggest thrill of my personal journey.

My dad first shared Christ with me when I was 7. It was with him that I prayed to accept Jesus into my life. My parents poured the Word of God into my life daily, and that was reinforced through Calvary Church of Santa Ana, where my family has attended for more than 30 years. I’m so thankful for the children’s ministry there, because they had—and continue to have—great youth pastors and Sunday School teachers who display the love of Christ.

Through Christian school and a solid family and church life, I grew up in a controlled environment and was never challenged or forced to make tough decisions about my faith—until I got to college at UCLA. At a big school with a lot of kids from different walks of life, I was inspired to personalize my faith and dig deeper in the Word, seeking truth so I could stand for what I believed. It wasn’t an easy time, but looking back I thank God for His grace and for providing friends who continued to pour into my life. I was able to grow as a man, learn more about myself and the Lord, and really make my faith my own.

While there, I also had the opportunity to play football. Believe it or not, I never even started a football game for UCLA. I dealt with a lot of injuries and was fully prepared to move on from the game once my collegiate career was over. However, during my senior year, the Lord preserved my body, kept me healthy and allowed me to have some success. It wasn’t until then that I realized playing in the NFL was even a possibility.

But, in 2008, the New England Patriots selected me in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. For my family and me, being drafted was much like the miracle of Lazarus coming out of the tomb. You just don’t see kids who never started a game in college get drafted. Getting the call from the Patriots was a very emotional moment. It was hard evidence for us that God is real. He is alive and active and working. The eight years since then have been an unbelievable journey, no question.

My faith has been very, very vital in me sticking around the NFL for this long. In this sport, there’s so much uncertainty, so many unknowns. Through it all, I’ve had to put my whole trust in the Lord and know that He is in control.

My purpose in the NFL is to bring Him glory and make His name more famous. It's really been fun to see how He’s opened doors and allowed certain conversations of faith to come up over the years—in ways I never could have imagined.

I know wins and losses will fade away, but when you put your faith in Christ and stay rooted in Him, it will have an eternal impact. Keeping that perspective helps me prioritize my life and my thoughts. I compete and work hard to help my team win, but I know the victory has already been won on Calvary, and that’s all that really matters.

I hope people see that in my effort. I want them to know I work hard as a way of saying thank you to the Lord for the abilities and opportunities He has given me.


–This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of FCA Magazine. To view the issue digitally, click here: January/February 2016 FCA Mag Digital 

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Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots/Keith Nordstrom