This year’s Super Bowl may present a dilemma for Bruin fans. For many years, the Los Angeles area hasn’t had a team to root for, let alone a Super Bowl contender. Football fans could at least root for the team that had a fellow Bruin and, in some cases, pick their favorite Bruin from a field of choices.
This year, the New England Patriots are the only team playing with a former Bruin player on the active roster. That, of course, is special teams captain Matthew Slater.
The son of Rams Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, Slater played college football at UCLA from 2003-2008 and was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. As a Bruin, he played wide receiver and also made appearances on special teams during kick coverage and kick returns. He returned 34 kicks for a 29-yard average his senior year and also scored three touchdowns, which tied for the lead in the nation at the time and set the UCLA record. He also tied the Pac-10 season record, which had been set by Anthony Davis in 1974. That year, he was also selected to the First Team All Pac-10 as the kick returner.
Slater has two Super Bowl championships as well as seven Pro Bowl appearances on special teams under his belt, which ties Steve Tasker for the most special teams Pro Bowl nods in NFL history. He missed a good portion of the 2017 season due to a hamstring injury, but signed a two-year contract extension in March of 2018 with the Patriots. He is most recently known for his uncanny ability to call coin tosses, which he correctly called in both Super Bowl LI and the overtime portion of the AFC title game two weeks ago.
Slater is not the only former Bruin player who is a member of the Patriots this season. Former Bruin receiver Darren Andrews was signed as an undrafted free agent on May 11, 2018. On May 14, 2018, was waived and added to New England’s Non-Football Injury list. That meant that Andrew remained with the Patriots organization but was sidelined for the entire 2018 season while recovering from the ACL injury he suffered in November 2017.
While Slater and Andrews are the only former Bruin players who are with the Los Angeles Rams and the Patriots, there are two former Bruin coaches on the coaching staff of the Rams. The Rams wide receiver coach is former UCLA receivers coach Eric Yarber. Yarber is in his second season with the Rams after spending the first five years of the Jim Mora era in Westwood. The other former Bruin coach on the Rams’ coaching staff is Senior Offensive Assistant Coach Jedd Fisch. Fisch is in his first year with the Rams after turning around UCLA’s offense last season and finishing the year as UCLA’s interim head coach. After winning his debut over UC Berkeley, making the team bowl-eligible, Fisch was unable to beat Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl, giving him a 1-1 overall record.
We wish all four of these former Bruins good luck in today’s game.
This is your Bruins Nation Super Bowl open thread.