On January 4, 1012, Steve Slaton had a couple of things to celebrate. That was of course the day that the West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the Clemson Tigers 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. All Mountaineer fans celebrated that. For Steve Slaton, it was a birthday present. He celebrated his 26th birthday that day.
The Orange Bowl was played at Pro-Player Stadium in Miami, FL – the stadium Slaton called ‘home’ for the last 7 Weeks of the NFL Regular Season. The Miami Dolphins claimed the Mountaineer great off waivers after the Houston Texans released him mid-season. Slaton played behind Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas while a member of the Dolphins and played sparingly. He was the Dolphins leading rusher in the last game of the Regular Season in the Dolphins victory over the Jets with 55 yards on 11 carries.
Slaton burst on the NFL scene as a rookie in 2008 leading all rookies in rushing with over 1,200 yards. Since then, with a combination of several factors, Slaton slid down the crowded Texans’ running-back depth chart with the emergence of Arian Foster.
Mountaineer fans will remember Steve Slaton as not only one of the best running-backs in school history, but one of it’s best players. He set numerous records in his three seasons as a Mountaineer. The first one he set was in his first game as a starter vs. Louisville when he scored 6 touchdowns. After that, he set records for rushing yards in a season, total yards in a season (until Tavon Austin broke it this season), 1st in rushing touchdowns in a season, and the list goes on and on. He compiled nearly 4,000 yards rushing with 52 rushing touchdowns.
Now after four seasons in the NFL, Slaton is an unrestricted free-agent for the first time. When Slaton sat third on the Texans depth chart, rumors swirled from various teams that interested in his services. Teams who needed a starting running back or teams that needed someone to split carries with the starter. Now he has a chance to go to pick his team. I spoke to him about being a free-agent, about playing for the Mountaineers, how he gets ready for a game, and more.
WVU Pros: What made you want to be a Mountaineer?
Slaton: First of all, coming to school, I wanted to be a running back. I committed to Maryland. I committed there for about six months, but I didn’t sign any letters (of intent). After that six months that I was committed, they called me and told me that I wouldn’t have a guaranteed scholarship. After that, because I was off the market for so long, other teams didn’t want me to play running back anymore. West Virginia was one of the few schools that wanted me to play running back. So, I went there and it all worked out.
WVU Pros: What was your favorite part of being a Mountaineer?
Slaton: Just being part of the family. Knowing that they’re always there for you. The camaraderie.
WVU Pros: What was your favorite moment as a Mountaineer?
Slaton:It’s all a cumulative thing. I just loved my time there. Getting the starting job my freshman year, the bowl games. It was all great. The Louisville game (in 2005) and the Sugar Bowl (in 2006) stand out.
WVU Pros: You burst on the scene during your rookie year in the NFL and led all rookies in rushing. After that, you started to fall down the depth chart with the emergence of Arian Foster. How did you handle that?
Slaton: First of all, just being drafted was a huge moment for me. Everything I had hoped for in my life had finally come true. The veterans told me that you never know when your time is up. I had some injury problems, then Arian emerged. The coaches saw something they liked in him, and went with it. I know that if I keep practicing hard, I’ll get my time.
WVU Pros: After you were released by Houston, you were picked up by Miami in mid-season. What was it like having to adjust to a new team like that in the middle of a season?
Slaton: It wasn’t that hard. It was just one of those things. They’re a power running team with a lot of I-Formation and run a lot of counters, so it wasn’t that hard to pick up.
WVU Pros: Do you have any pre-game rituals? How do you get yourself hyped up before a game?
Slaton: I’m a spiritual dude, so I don’t really have any rituals. I just think about the plays beforehand. Get my mind right for the game.
WVU Pros: Now that you’re a free-agent, would you like to stay in Miami or land somewhere else?
Slaton: All opportunities are on the table right now. Have to get past the Super Bowl and see what plays out. I would, ideally, like to find a place where I have a chance to start. Show coaches I can do it.
WVU Pros: You grew up in Philly. Were the Eagles your favorite team?
Slaton: Nah. I was a big Cowboys fan growing up. Loved watching Emmitt Smith play.
WVU Pros: What advice would you give to the Mountaineer seniors as they prepare to enter the NFL Draft process?
Slaton: To lay it all out on the line. This is your one shot. You’ll have your “Ah-ha” moment when you realize that football is your life. It’s a business. Remember, you’re being drafted to take somebody’s job and there will be somebody down the line trying to take your job.
I would like to thank Mr. Slaton for taking the time out of his day to chat for a few minutes. We wish him the best of luck as he proceeds with the next step in his NFL career.