During his introductory press conference as a member of the New York Giants, Nate Ebner couldn’t say enough about former New England Patriots teammate Matthew Slater, one of the premier special teams players the NFL has seen.
“I have nothing but amazing things to say about Matthew Slater. He’s one of the highest-character people I’ve ever met in my life, and he’s a great, great football player to boot,” Slater said.
Slater was already four years and one Pro Bowl appearance into his career when Ebner, a rugby player, joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent.
“I learned a lot from Matt coming in as a rookie. He was in his third or fourth year and already was a Pro Bowler. I just watched him work on a day to day basis, and kind of what I’ve spoken to throughout this phone call, just coming to work with a selfless attitude to do the work, to do it to the best of your ability, and whatever is asked of you, do it with a selflessness that puts the team’s priorities above your own,” Ebner said. “That’s what Matt did forever. He was extremely consistent, and that consistency, over time, really speaks to who you are as a person. Matt was among the most consistent people I’ve ever met. I could go on and on about the things that I’ve learned and how we’ve grown together.”
Slater, entering his 13th NFL season and with eight Pro Bowls and two All-Pro seasons now on his resume, returned the favor recently in discussing Ebner.
In a conference call with Patriots media (hat tip to Pats Pulpit’s Bernd Buchmasser for passing it along), Slater said this about Ebner:
“I’ve worked more closely with Nate than any player on our roster over the last eight years, by a long shot. I’ve spent more time in meetings, more time on the practice field with Nate Ebner than any player, maybe in my career. So, his value to what we did in the kicking game, it just was off the charts. It would never be something that gets talked about because there’s so many intricacies within the kicking game that get overlooked, but the things that he has done for our football team on and off the field over the last eight years have been tremendous.
“I know personally as a player, no player has challenged me more, has pushed me more, has gotten more out of me as a teammate than him. I certainly thanked him for that when I found out that he was leaving, but I certainly am going to miss that. What he did for us as a communicator, you think of him almost as a third coach on the field. He did so much and he got guys lined up, he got guys on the same page, and he did it not only year after year, but week after week, day after day. I mean, he was so consistent in what he brought to the table. So, that’s going to be a big role for us to fill.”
Ebner will be relied upon by Giants head coach Joe Judge, who was with him his entire career in New England, to bring those value and that skill set to the Giants.
“Whatever capacity they need me in, whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it the best I can,” Ebner said. “That, to me, is what I kind of watched in New England some great players do. That’s kind of a mindset that as a team, if we can all buy in together, then we’ll be in there playing for each other. That’s what great teams do, is play for each other. At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s asked of me and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”