Chargers Center Matt Slauson Finds Strength in his Stutter

New center brings toughness developed after overcoming a speech issue

Matt Slauson is the newest member of the Chargers offensive line but it did not take him long to win a big fan.

“He reminds me of a couple of guys we’ve had here in the past,” said quarterback Philip Rivers. Then Philip dropped a few impressive names on us. “Clary and Hardwick and Dielman. That’s just, kind of, his personality.”

Keep in mind Jeromey Clary, Nick Hardwick and Kris Dielman were three stalwarts on what might be the best Chargers offensive line of all time. They were long regarded as three of the toughest players in the NFL. Concussions forced Dielman to retire in 2012. Injuries knocked out Clary and Hardwick in 2014.

“All of a sudden it was like THAT (snapping fingers for emphasis) and you lose Hardwick and Clary, who were staples in that room,” said Rivers. “They brought way more than just on the field.”

It’s that toughness … a nasty attitude that has been missing since they left. Slauson was regarded as the toughest guy in the Chicago Bears locker room and so far he’s lived up to that reputation in San Diego.

“I think Matt can bring a nice little addition, bring that in his own way,” said Rivers. “At practice the look on his face was, there’s no time to play around.”

Having that guy on the field has an impact on both sides of the ball. Defenders know where the tough guys are.

“It puts the fear in guys, to be honest with you,” said Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget. “You rush a little different. It makes you not want to take as many chances because you know somebody is probably coming to clean you up or take advantage of you. You stay within your game and kind of be a little hesitant.”

You may recall towards the end of the 2015 season the Chargers were getting beat up by the Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium. Denver linebacker Von Miller was taking liberties with Rivers and nobody on the Bolts line did anything to back up the man they’re supposed to be protecting. So what if that happens when Slauson is on the field?

“If there are any issues going on it will be dealt with,” said Slauson, a look of stone on his face. And how will he deal with it? “I don’t feel comfortable getting in to that but IF it ever happens it’ll get handled.”

Slauson has been in more than a few scrums in his day. Since he was a child he has had a stutter.

“Growing up with a speech impediment is tough,” said Slauson, who graciously does every interview asked of him. “Kids are relentless. They’re mean. Nothing against kids, I love kids. I have three of them. But it’s just kind of what kids do and it made life challenging at times.”

But when Matt grew in to a 6-foot-5 offensive linemen and football coaches took notice, his life changed.

“Football kind of gave me an outlet, for one because a lot of those kids that were making fun of me were on the football team so I got to unleash some fury on them. That was fun. But also, being part of a team kind of gave me the confidence now, not only in sport but in life, in school, in everything. It got me to a point where I wasn’t trying to hide from who I was anymore. Now I’m accepting who I am and every time I do a talk with kids with speech issues I tell them don’t hide from it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Because when you’re older it gives you that extra something that is you. That was the turning point that I had in college that really helped a lot.”

Slauson played guard for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and played the same spot for the Jets and Bears. But in 2015 Chicago lost its starting center to injury so they asked Matt to move over and play in the middle. Remember, the center is in charge of making line calls and adjustments, communicating important information in a short time. That was a concern for someone with a lifelong stutter but when Slauson gets in to game mode … the stutter disappears.

“I don’t know why,” said Slauson. “I’m not a scientist, I’m not a speech therapist, but when I’m on the field and you’re in the heat of battle I don’t have any issues communicating at all. It happens fast, it happens clean, and everybody understands.”

And for someone who has dealt with stuttering, having it suddenly disappear when he’s doing something he loves to do is liberating.

“It’s actually kind of amazing. When I was asked to come here to play center that’s an obvious thought that pops in to your head. But when you get out on the field you don’t have time to think about any of that. You just try to read and react and play and after a while you think, Whoa! I’m not having any issues communicating anything. So, it’s nice.”

If Slauson can have half the impact with the Chargers on the field as he does inspiring kids off the field the Chargers line will be in better shape than it’s been in years.

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