Matthew Slater Implores Merrimack Community to ‘Break the Huddle’

The former captain for the New England Patriots and three-time Super Bowl champion was the keynote speaker for the College’s Unity in Diversity Days.
Photo of Merrimack head football coach Mike Gennetti, former Patirots wide receiver Matthew Slater and Grant Jackson ’23, M’24. Slater holds a Merrimack football jersey with his name and number on it.
Merrimack head football coach Mike Gennetti (left) presents recently retired Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (center) with a Merrimack football jersey alongside Grant Jackson ’23, M’24.

In football, a team breaks the huddle when it is ready for the next play. In a talk at Merrimack College’s Rogers Center for the Arts on Wednesday, March 20, former New England Patriot Matthew Slater encouraged the audience to take the same approach when addressing social injustices.

“We’ve done too much drawing of lines in the sand,” Slater said. “And we have just totally given up on our ability to let our guard down and meet someone halfway. Don’t just stay huddled up. Don’t just keep living our lives the way we have been living them. We need people who are called to action and I don’t see why it can’t be you guys.”

Slater, a former captain for the Patriots and a three-time Super Bowl champion, came to Merrimack to give the keynote address for Unity in Diversity Days. He touched on the importance of harnessing personal motivations, building relationships and finding the right time to interject oneself in pursuit of a more just and equitable society.

“As you lead and think about being difference makers in the spaces you are operating in and leading people to a higher ground, it starts with how you connect with people,” Slater said. “It takes a willingness, in a lot of cases, to be uncomfortable; it takes a willingness to say sometimes you don’t know; to ask a question or to sometimes be quiet and listen.”

Merrimack’s Unity in Diversity Days is held once a semester and features events, workshops and discussions that bring the College community together to share knowledge and strategies, designed to enhance awareness and understanding of accountability and intersectional justice.

Slater was introduced by Grant Jackson ’23, M’24, a defensive back on the Merrimack College football team, president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and member of the Athletic Diversity Committee. During a Q&A following Slater’s talk, Jackson asked the 10-time Pro Bowler who recently retired what advice he had for students in the audience facing similar pivotal moments in their lives.

“It is important to do it in community,” Slater said. “You can’t do it alone, no matter who you are.”

Slater was also asked how younger generations can be taught to make a difference in the world and create safe environments. “When people ask me ‘What can I do?’ I tell them it starts at home,” Slater said. “We all have a family and it looks different for everyone. We all have a responsibility to teach our young people the right things in the right way.”

As a thank you, Merrimack head football coach Mike Gennetti presented Slater with a Merrimack football jersey with Slater’s name on it and the No. 18, the same number Slater wore with the Patriots. Following the event, Slater posed for photos with attendees before meeting with Merrimack football student-athletes, coaches and staff in Cascia Hall.

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