Family Support

Although Steve Slaton was forced to miss the Big 33 game due to an early start at West Virginia, he was still represented at the prestigious all-star contest last month – and that's just one example of the type of support the Pennsylvania speedster has enjoyed throughout his life.

While Steve, who enrolled in summer school to get a head start on his WVU career, was toiling in Morgantown in late July, his mother, father and brother traveled to Hershey, Pa. to stand in for him at what would have been the last high school game of his life. And while they missed seeing their son on the field, the importance of the act went far beyond its symbolic trappings, and revealed a great deal about the dynamics of the Slaton family.

Not every family would make a summer trip for an event that was absent the main attraction (a son on the field, in this instance), but for the Slatons it was a no-brainer. Father Carl, a jovial bear of a man, noted that the event wasn't to be missed.

"It's a worthwhile thing," he said of the event, encompassing both his son's selection to the game and all of the scholarships and other community good works the Big 33 engenders. "To see the people that benefit from this is a great thing. Steve really wanted to come, but as you know, he was already in school, so we felt like it was the right thing for us to do."

Accompanied by his wife Juanita and son Charles, Carl met several Mountaineer fans in attendance at the game, and noted that they are well on the way into making him a college football fans. The Slatons were mostly pro football followers in previous years, but Steve's signing with WVU has them moving in the direction of the collegiate game.

"We never watched a lot of college football," Carl said of the family's sports viewing. "We watched Steve, of course, but never cheered for Pitt or Penn State or anyone like that."

That fact alone will likely endear the Slatons to many West Virginia fans, and it probably won't take many visits to Morgantown to complete the process. They plan to attend as many of Steve's games as possible, and their friendly and outgoing personalities are bound to make them fan favorites.

Of course, that process won't be hindered any if Slaton makes a big splash on the field, which could very well occur, if not this year, sooner rather than later. The speedy running back has been working hard this summer with an eye toward avoiding a redshirt this fall.

"He was really disappointed about missing the game, and when we called him on our way up here, I could tell from his voice," said Juanita, Steve's mom. "When we talked to him, he just groaned and said ‘I don't want to talk about it'. So we didn't want to rub it in.

"He was really torn about it," Juanita continued. "He knows the classes [at WVU] were important, so he would be o.k with it for a little bit, but then the next day he would be wishing he could play [in the Big 33]. But, if going to school early helps him get on the field this fall, it will be well worth it."

Knowing how much the game meant to their son made it important for the Slatons to attend in his stead, which led to their late July trip to Hershey. Also along for the ride was Steve's older brother Charles, who looks as if he could step right onto the field as a cornerback.

However, it was baseball, not football, that was Charles' game. He was a four-year high school starter and played two years at Trenton State before a shoulder injury ended his career. His status as a fellow athlete, however, makes him the more natural target for talks with his brother as he begins his college career.

"The only time we talk to Steve is when he calls us," Carl said with a laugh. "He calls his brother more than he calls us."

While admitting that he is his brother's sounding board on occasions, Charles is quick to point out that his younger sibling is his own person.

"Steve is very mature for his age," Charles noted. "I let him make his own decisions. He won't let anyone tell him or encourage him to do anything he doesn't want to do. He'll ask me some questions, but we are really two different people. I'll tell him what I think, but he usually takes that and goes with his own direction. I'm more laid back (which befits his choice of baseball), but he doesn't like to wait. I'll sit back and think things over before taking action, but he's a straight ahead guy. He doesn't wait around to make decisions – he just goes after it. I'll tell him where I'm coming from when we talk about things, but then he'll go his own direction."

Of course, Charles and Steve were competitive growing up, but their different sports led most of those contests to be very basic in nature.

"Growing up it wasn't sports but more a test of strength, racing down the street and wrestling around the living room," Charles recalled. "We'd throw baseballs, and I'm throwing it 100 mph and he'd say, "that's enough". Then he's playing football, and I can't throw a football very well, so it was usually races and things like that where we competed.

"The first time he beat me in anything was a footrace," Charles continued. "I think it was about 50 yards, but then we went another 10 yards back. He kicked it into gear and just walked away from me. I went and sat in my truck and shook my head. In high school I was one of the fastest kids going around the bases, so for him to beat me was tough. But he didn't brag about it."

While missing the game was tough for Steve, it's easy to see why he handled it so well. His family is obviously a strong and supportive unit, and with one brother having already gone through the process of being a college athlete, he has a great deal of experience to fall back on. With such a group behind him, it won't be surprising to see him excel at West Virginia both on and off the field.

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