INDIANAPOLIS — "Shoot, am I? I'm the second-oldest guy?"
That was Matt Slauson's reaction back in April when he learned, at 32 years old, that he trailed only 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri for "oldest player" honors within the Indianapolis Colts' locker room.
Slauson certainly doesn't feel old — and he doesn't play like it, either.
But in his last couple seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Slauson says he learned to embrace his role as an experienced veteran along the offensive line; while counted on to be a solid starter, Slauson's coaches also have relied on him to groom the younger players and get them ready for whenever their number is called.
And since signing with the Colts as a free agent this offseason, the "Slauson Effect" has been real along the Indy offensive line. Yet again, Slauson — who has started 108 of 111 games in which he has played over his 10-year NFL career — was working in with the theoretical first-team offense at right guard, but the team also has plenty of younger linemen waiting in the wings that have already benefitted from Slauson's guidance.
"Yeah, that's a side of the game that I've really enjoyed over the last couple years is helping develop a lot of these young guys," Slauson said. "I don't ever view it as me kind of grooming my replacement, but I just believe that if you have knowledge to pass down to younger guys, it's almost your responsibility to do that. For one as a pro, but just as a teammate."
And while others assuredly gave Slauson the same treatment when he was a sixth-round pick by the New York Jets out of Nebraska back in 2009, not all veterans are so willing to dish out the tricks of the trade to players who could potentially take their jobs down the line.
But none of that matters to Slauson.
"I'm never going to hide any tricks I've got or things that I've learned, because if it can make us better as a line, it's going to make us better as a team," he said. "And ultimately I'm here to win."
Slauson's leadership grew increasingly evident throughout the course of the Colts' offseason workout program, as he commonly arranged group outings for the team's offensive linemen off the field, and then on the field, became like an extension of the staff for new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
And with the later addition of another free agent offensive lineman, 31-year-old tackle Austin Howard, DeGuglielmo thinks his new veteran duo is just what his group needs.
"You know, these guys are, in our world, they're old men, but they still have a lot of meat on the bone," DeGuglielmo said. "And I think it's helped to bring a sense of calm and veteran to the room. At the same time it's also showed some of the other guys — because they're both, Austin and Matt, are different personalites — it's showed a lot of these younger guys that, 'Hey, we don't all have to be like this guy or that guy. We can be confident in how we do things.' They're really in a mode to help guide these younger guys become what they need to be."
Slauson joked that "everybody tells me how old I am" — it's like "I've got a foot in the grave already," he added — but his presence is already being felt in his first few months in Indianapolis.
"I definitely don't feel old, but apparently I am," he said with a smile. "But no, I embrace that side of things. I like helping out young guys, because I know what it was like to be in their shoes and how difficult this game can be. So if I can help in any way, I love doing that."