While New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the NFL, his main passion in life isn't sports -- it's his faith in Jesus Christ.
"To me, my faith is everything," Slater, 30, told the Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. "I was fortunate to be brought up in a Christian home with two parents that feared the Lord, and they raised me to fear the Lord as well."
He added, "I really don't know where I would be in life professionally and personally without the Lord -- He's seen me through a lot of different things, opened my ears, and blessed me beyond anything I could ever describe. So, I'm so thankful that I was raised to know the Lord, that I have a relationship with Christ now, that my wife has a relationship with Christ. In our family, that's the foundation for us."
The athlete's talent speaks for itself: The Patriots just wrapped up their seventh consecutive AFC East championship, while Slater just earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection.
When asked how his faith sustains him not only through success but also through failure, Slater didn't hesitate: "I think you always have to maintain perspective," he said. "At the end of the day, we play a game, and we put a lot into it, but eternity's not in balance based on the outcome of a game. For us, as Christians, we have to remember that we serve a God that is bigger than the game of football, that has a plan that's bigger for us, that goes beyond our life here on earth. That's something that I have to lean back on when we have some adversity."
With his ongoing success, Slater is following in the footsteps of his father, NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater. The elder Slater played 20 years in the NFL as an offensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and St. Louis Rams and was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
"It's been a blessing to do what my daddy did over his career and follow in his footsteps," Slater said of how his father has influenced him. "It's really humbling for me to represent the name on my back. The Lord has really used the game of football to bless our family. We're very thankful. You know, I always tell people, 'I'll always be Jackie's son.' Whatever I accomplish on the field, I can only hope to be half the man my father was, and I'm so thankful for the example he set...not only professionally, but the biggest thing was his faith, and that's what is most important to the Slaters, his household and my household. I'm very thankful for that."
The NFL star and his wife, Shahrzad Ehdaivand, also put their faith into action -- they're invested in a number of charities and humanitarian organizations as a reflection of their beliefs.
"There are several ministries that my wife and I are passionate about that we support," he said. "Samaritan's Purse, the Ron Burton Training Village, (an organization that seeks to instill core Biblical values in young men), obviously our church home in New England, Bethel AME, and there are a number of other churches and ministries that we support."
This year, Slater and his wife welcomed their first child into the world; a son, Jeremiah, who is named after the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.
"It's the best thing," he said of his newborn son. "My wife might be a little bit more tired than I am from dealing with a newborn but what a blessing it is to be a parent. We're so thankful that the Lord has blessed us with young Jeremiah. We have a lot to be thankful for."
And, with 2016 just around the corner, Slater says he's most looking forward to taking some time to rest.
"We have a lot of football left this season, and I haven't been getting a ton of rest with a newborn at home," he said with a smile. "So, I'm going to try to rest as best I can."