Steve Slaton, far right, sits on stage at the Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year award ceremony. Seated next to Slaton (L-R): Baltimore's Joe Flacco, Chicago's Matt Forte, Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Atlanta's Matt Ryan.
TAMPA, Fla. – During last year's Super Bowl, running back Steve Slaton was in Phoenix training for the NFL Scouting Combine and dreaming of a promising pro career. A lot can happen in a year. Thanks to a stellar rookie season where he ranked second in the AFC in rushing yards with 1,282, Slaton is in Tampa to be recognized along with the league's elite.
On Thursday, he joined Baltimore's Joe Flacco, Chicago's Matt Forte, Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Atlanta's Matt Ryan as nominees for the Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. Flacco ultimately won the award, but Slaton was recognized as the rookie leader in rushing.
Also, the NFL Network's Rich Eisen, who presented the award, made a point of thanking Slaton for helping him rack up fantasy football points.
Before hitting radio row, Slaton sat down with HoustonTexans.com's Brooke Bentley to answer 10 questions.
1. Brooke Bentley: This is your first Super Bowl as a pro player. What do you have planned for the week?
Steve Slaton: I'm going to do some appearances, meet some of the players I have wanted to meet and work on my networking. I also might hit some parties. I'm thinking of going to the EA Sports party tonight.
2. Brooke Bentley: You were up for a very big honor today. Was it surreal sitting onstage watching your highlights and hearing about your accomplishments in 2009?
Steve Slaton: It was actually very humbling. I felt like all year I was chasing the rookie running backs, and it took me all season to get them. It's a great honor to be nominated with them. There are a lot of deserving rookies this year. Just to be in the top five is a blessing and an honor.
3. Brooke Bentley: You said you played with a chip on your shoulder after being drafted in the third round last year. Will that change now?
Steve Slaton: I have always taken that approach on every level. I have always had that chip on my shoulder. I love to compete, but I love to have people doubting me. Then I get to prove them wrong.
4. Brooke Bentley: I hear a lot of people saying that you came up big for them in fantasy football. Did it surprise you that the NFL Network's Rich Eisen said that during the press conference?
Steve Slaton: It's great, and to hear it from Rich Eisen is a big deal. I felt humbled by that. I'm glad I helped him out.
5. Brooke Bentley: What have other players been saying to you about the Texans?
Steve Slaton: I think our offense has a lot more respect after last season. We have the best receiver in the league in Andre Johnson. We have a lot of weapons that people are starting to talk about. Our offense really came together last year.
6. Brooke Bentley: What has the media been asking you about?
Steve Slaton: A lot of them want to know how I was able to have such big numbers at the end of the season. Most rookies get worn down, but I guess I didn't. People also want to know how I was able to have such an easy transition to the NFL. I tell them it helps when you have a great o-line coach like Alex Gibbs, and I got to play in a zone scheme that was similar to the one I had at West Virginia.
7. Brooke Bentley: Are you being compared to many veteran players?
Steve Slaton: Not really. Someone actually ask me if I was upset that I was compared to Reggie Bush. I said I didn't really think that much about it.
8. Brooke Bentley: What is the funniest thing you have heard so far?
Steve Slaton: Before I went on Michael Irvin's radio show, he said he looked up my stats and then just said, "ridiculous."
9. Brooke Bentley: Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?
Steve Slaton: I have to say Pittsburgh. They were the first team we played and they have a great defense. I saw that firsthand.
10. Brooke Bentley: What is the biggest lesson you learned last season?
Steve Slaton: The number one thing I learned as a rookie is that you have to protect the quarterback. All coaches want running backs to learn that they have to protect the quarterback, and I learned that last year.