Amazingly, this suits him just fine. The hype, the hoopla and the incessant plugs by experts of his worthiness as a Heisman Trophy candidate all seem to fit his frame as well as football pads.
Long before his ill-fated affair with Maryland was made public last week, West Virginia tailback Steve Slaton had lurked in the shadows of others, always good enough to play but never quite good enough in the eyes of others to receive top billing.
He was a star, but no one else outside of teammates or the people around him seemed to know it...and Slaton thrived in that role.
An all-timer in Philadelphia schoolboy grid annals going by numbers and ability, Slaton toiled away in virtual anonymity while playing for Conwell-Egan High-a program that struggled for the better part of 25 years before Slaton erupted for a school-record 290 yards and five touchdowns in his first varsity appearance midway through his freshman season, which served as a spark to four postseason runs.
He was a great player then but not considered in the same class as another kid in the same league-Curtis Brinkley of West Catholic.
Slaton had tremendous numbers but Brinkley had better ones. The latter also was a big-name recruit, having been wooed by all the top programs en route to earning Pennsylvania Player of the Year honors. The former, meanwhile, accepted Maryland's initial pitch, then-depending on who you believe- either Slaton or Maryland reneged.
Regardless, he was given the usual second-banana treatment. The Terrapins wanted him to play defensive back, but Slaton wanted to remain a running back.
So, he landed at West Virginia, only to find the nation's No. 3 running back prospect, Jason Gwaltney, already there. Gwaltney was bigger (6-0, 234 to 5-10, 190), supposedly as fast (Slaton runs a 4.37-second 40-yard dash) and had the rep.
Again, the back seat was all Slaton's.
Fast forward to today, though, and Slaton is one of the darlings of college football. Having earned the starting job for the Mountaineers midway through last season, he finished the year with 1,128 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. So far this season, he has accounted for 503 yards and six scores on the ground while leading WVU to a 3-0 start and for the first time, basking in the glow of the spotlight.
Slaton's rise to prominence and his ability to flourish there are quite amazing.
As for those wondering what happened to the other "characters" in this tale, well, Brinkley is the main ball carrier at Syracuse but has not had the impact that Slaton is having. Gwaltney left WVU only to decide that he wanted to return in the future-as a linebacker.
We all know what Slaton did to Maryland last week. The Terrapins lost, 45-24, to the Mountaineers while managing to gain 134 yards on the ground-exactly 13 less than Slaton had in the first quarter.