CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Fralin Family Head Football Coach Tony Elliott announced today (Jan. 6) the hiring of Keith Gaither and former Virginia All-American Chris Slade as assistant coaches. Both Slade and Gaither will work with the Cavalier defense.
Gaither has spent the past two seasons as the wide receivers coach at Army for head coach Jeff Monken. He previously worked at West Point as the wide receivers coach for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He spent the 2019 campaign at Western Michigan.
This year’s Army squad defeated Missouri 24-22 to win the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl to finish the season 9-4. The 2020 Army squad went 9-3 and made an appearance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Cadet receivers averaged 20.55 yards per reception this season in the team’s run-oriented offense. Army’s 11 touchdown receptions in 2021 was the most since the 2015 season.
Prior to Western Michigan, Gaither was the pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach at East Carolina (2017-18), where he was responsible for the instruction and teaching of all aspects of the wide receiver position in a multiple pro-style offense. In each of his two seasons, the Pirates produced a first-team all-conference wide receiver in Trevon Brown.
During his first stint at Army (2015-16), Gaither directed the Black Knights’ receiving corps. His pass catchers stood fourth nationally in yards-per-reception with a 17.9 average in 2016 during Army’s successful 8-5 campaign, which included a 21-17 win over Navy and a 38-31 overtime victory against North Texas in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
In his first year at West Point, Gaither coached Edgar Poe and DeAndre Bell to notable performances. Poe produced a trio of 100-yard receiving games and caught six touchdown passes, which was the most by a Black Knight since 2007, while Bell turned in career highs in receptions and yards as a senior.
Prior to Army, Gaither was wide receivers coach at Ball State from 2011 to 2014 and helped guide the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl appearances in 2012 (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s) and 2013 (GoDaddy.com).
While in Muncie, Gaither was responsible for a combined three All-Mid-American Conference first-team selections in 2012 and 2013, along with second-team and third-team All-MAC picks in 2014. One of his top pupils was current Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Willie Snead, who set BSU single-season receiving records in yardage (1,516), catches (106) and touchdowns (15) in 2013.
Gaither also impacted his players off the field as Briggs Orsbon earned Capital One Academic All-America honors in 2011, while Connor Ryan was a Capital One Academic All-District choice a year later. Orsbon completed his career as only the second receiver in Ball State history to record over 200 career catches.
Before coming to Ball State, Gaither had a two-year stint at his alma mater, Elon, in 2009 and 2010. He helped Terrell Hudgins establish 19 NCAA, Southern Conference and Phoenix records and to a runner-up finish in the voting for the 2009 Walter Payton Award, which formally recognizes the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Player-of-the-Year. Additionally, Gaither mentored All-American pass catcher and Baltimore Ravens draft pick Aaron Mellette while at Elon.
Gaither began his coaching career in 1997 as defensive backs coach at Greensboro (N.C.) College before moving to Tusculum (Tenn.) College for the 1998 and 1999 campaigns. Following a five-year run as an assistant at alma mater Thomasville (N.C.) High School, Gaither returned to the college ranks as Winston-Salem State’s recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach from 2005 to 2008.
A four-year starter and two-time all-region performer as a member of the Phoenix secondary, Gaither earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Elon in 1997.
Gaither and his wife Holly have four children – Jonesha, Akeem, Madison and Hazel.
One of the greatest defensive players in Virginia history, Slade became the first UVA player to earn first-team All-America honors for two seasons (1991 and 1992). During his time as a Cavalier, he set the Virginia and Atlantic Coast Conference career record for quarterback sacks with 40. He served as a team captain during the 1992 campaign and was named the national defensive player of the year by the Football News that season. He was the defensive MVP of the 1990 Florida Citrus Bowl after posting a game-high 11 tackles. Slade completed his Cavalier career as the program’s all-time leader in tackles for loss (56) and was fifth on UVA’s all-time tackles list with 299.
Slade was a second-round draft pick (31st overall selection) by the New England Patriots in 1993. During his eight years (1993-2000) with the team, he was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team and was a three-time defensive player of the year. He served as a team captain and was recognized as a Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro after the 1997 season. Slade was named to the Patriots’ 1990s All-Decade Team. He played his final professional season (2001) as a Carolina Panther. During his nine-year professional career, he appeared in a total of 142 games, totaling 664 tackles including 53.5 sacks and an additional 16 tackles for loss. He was a member of the Patriots team that played in Super Bowl XXXI.
Slade spent the past nine years (2013-21) as the head football coach at Pace Academy in Atlanta, Ga. During his career he produced a 59-42 record while playing primarily against higher classification schools. Slade led Pace to it first state championship (2A) title in 2015. During his tenure the program produced 26 college players, two All-Americans, three future NFL players and made eight consecutive playoff appearances. In 2012 he joined the school as the assistant varsity football coach and an admissions associate.
Slade’s Virginia career included numerous highlights.
As a freshman in 1989, Slade starred on a Virginia team that won a school-record 10 games and shared the ACC title. He finished sixth on the team in tackles (52) and second in sacks (four). During his sophomore season, Slade had seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss to earn first-team All-ACC accolades. That season the Cavaliers achieved the number-one ranking in the Associated Press poll for three consecutive weeks.
As a junior in 1991, he posted a career-high 99 tackles and led a Virginia defense that ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense (10.8) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (91.1 rating). That season Slade broke the Virginia single-season record for sacks (14) and tackles for loss (21) and was named second-team All-ACC and was named a first-team All-American by College & Pro Football Newsweekly, second team All-America by The Football News, and third team All-America by the Associated Press.
As a senior tri-captain in 1992, Slade broke his own school record for sacks (15) while also leading the team in tackles for loss (20). He tied for third on the team in tackles (74) and shared the team lead in pass break-ups (11). Slade earned first-team All-ACC honors and was a first team All-America selection by AP, United Press International, Football News, The Sporting News, the Football Writers Association of America, and the Walter Camp Foundation. The consensus All-American also was selected second-team All-America by College and Pro Football Newsweekly.
Slade was selected to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team in 2002 and was a member of the 2011 ACC Football Legends Class. The athletics department retired Slade’s jersey (85) following his senior season.
A native of Newport News, Va., Slade played at Tabb High School where he excelled in football, basketball and track. Along with his cousin, Terry Kirby, he helped to lead Tabb to the 1987 Group AA state football title. He was the All-State Virginia High School Defensive Player of the Year and a member of USA Today’s second team All-USA. As a prep basketball standout, Slade was the first basketball player in the York River District history to score more than 1,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds.
Slade was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame of The Lower Virginia Peninsula in 2005, the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Virginia Hampton Roads African American Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
He was a member of the Virginia Sports Radio Network from 2009-11, serving as a sideline reporter for Cavalier football games. Slade earned his undergraduate degree in sociology from Virginia in 2013.