Now, the former NFL star finds himself leading the school’s gridiron fortunes after being named its new head coach last week.
Slade replaces Matt Hall, who stepped down after seven years at the helm. Hall, who started the Pace football program in 2006, will continue his duties as the upper school dean of students and baseball coach.
“I’m very fortunate and blessed for this opportunity,” Slade said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Not only have I been fortunate to be a part of this coaching staff, but that our program features such young, smart athletes. Matt Hall did a good job building this program, and I want to build on what he established here.”
For Pace athletic director Kris Palmerton, Slade was the right man for the job.
“We’re very excited,” Palmerton said. “Chris is really good with the kids and he embraces what we believe at Pace, including the importance of hard work. He came here to Pace this year and has done a great job as an assistant coach.”
While it will be the first head coaching position for Slade, he comes into his new job with a wealth of football experience.
Slade spent nine years in the NFL, playing from 1993 to 2000 for the New England Patriots — where he was selected to the Pro Bowl in ’97 — before ending his pro career with the Carolina Panthers in ’01.
Before that, he played on the college level at Virginia — where he was a two-time All-American and three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer.
For his collegiate accomplishments, Slade was named as one of the ACC’s top 50 players of all time in 2002.
After his NFL playing days ended, he owned a smoothie business franchise in Alpharetta and served as a sideline reporter for Virginia football radio broadcasts and instructed at football camps across the country.
Slade said he learned a lot about the game from the coaches he played for, including Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick while he was with the Patriots.
“Those are some really good coaches,” he said. “Those are five or six guys with about a hundred years of football experience, and it was exciting to play for them and learn so much about the game from them.”
The Knights were 3-7 in 2012 and are 23-28 in five seasons of varsity football, dating back to ’08.
Instilling a hard-nosed style of football is among the priorities for Slade.
“I want to make sure my players are disciplined and tough and that they play hard every single snap,” he said. “I want our players to play smart and be prepared for every single game.”