By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE – One of the greatest football players in University of Virginia history is back on the team.
Chris Slade’s playing days are behind him, but he’s been hired as the sideline reporter for UVa football games. He takes over for another former Cavalier, Tim Sherman, who decided not to return this season.
Slade, 38, was the first UVa football player to be named a first-team All-American in consecutive seasons. All but unstoppable at defensive end, Slade set UVa and ACC records with 40 career sacks, 31 of them unassisted. He made the all-ACC first team twice and the second team once and is among the 10 former players to have had their jerseys retired at UVa.
He’ll work with play-by-play announcer Dave Koehn and former UVa star Frank Quayle on the game-day radio crew.
“UVa has always been dear to me in my heart,” Slade said yesterday at University Hall. “I’ve always wanted to come back here and do something with the university at some capacity, and when this opportunity opened up, I thought it was a good chance for me to come back.”
Koehn said: “While we’ll miss Tim, we can’t wait to have Chris join our broadcast team. Chris has such a wealth of football knowledge with 10 years of NFL experience and a Pro Bowl on his resume. The fact that he also knows Virginia football inside and out, having played here for four years and worked with a number of the coaches on staff, makes it a no-brainer. We feel like putting Chris on the sidelines is a home run.”
Slade will travel from his home in Atlanta to UVa’s home and away games. “It’s easy,” he said. He expects his transition to an on-air role to go smoothly, too.
He had a radio show when he played for the Patriots and also appeared regularly on TV, so this is not foreign to Slade. And he’s talked to Sherman about what the sideline job entails.
A native of Yorktown, Slade starred at Tabb High School with Terry Kirby, who then joined him at UVa. After graduating from Virginia in 1993, Slade spent nine seasons in the NFL, the first eight with the Patriots.
Slade, who made the Pro Bowl in 1997, played in Super Bowl XXXI.
In New England’s 3-4 defense, Slade played outside linebacker. His position coach – and a mentor – from 1993 to ’96 was Al Groh, the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. They’ve stayed in touch through the years.
“He and I have not just an on-the-field relationship, but we’ve also had a pretty close bond off the field,” Slade said. “He was very inspirational in my development as a player and as a person.”
Groh isn’t the only person Slade knows in the McCue Center. Football administrators Gerry Capone and Tom Sherman worked for George Welsh when Slade played at UVa, and Slade needs no introduction to assistant coaches Anthony Poindexter and Ron Prince.
Moreover, the Wahoos’ new linebackers coach, Bob Trott, was on the Patriots’ defensive staff in 1993, ’94 and ’95.
Slade said he’s well-versed in the program’s recent history. Throughout his NFL career, Slade said, “I kept up with the team closely. I’ve been very close to the program even before Coach Groh got here, when George was still the coach.”
As for the familiarity with the 2009 team, “I know quite a bit,” Slade said. “I watched a lot of games last year. I know the scheme, I know the system, I know what they’re running defensively.”
Slade said he recently sold his Planet Smoothie franchise. He’s been working for FBU – Football University – as an instructor at football camps for high school players.
“I hope we can get some of those guys to become Cavaliers,” Slade said with a laugh.