While we've heard a lot over the last couple of weeks about how Patriots' receiver Wes Welker has continued to defied the odds, not a lot has been made of receiver David Patten, who has been defying odds his entire career.
After a strong senior season at Western Carolina, David Patten went undrafted, and couldn't get a feeler from an NFL team following the draft. Finally, late in the summer, Patten decided to sign with the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. He played in their final regular season game, and their two playoff games. Following the season, he still couldn't land with an NFL team, spending the rest of the 1996 season without a job.
In March of '97, Patten finally got an NFL contract, signing with the New York Giants. While impressing in training camp and the preseason, Patten was part of the team's final cuts, landing on the practice squad. Nonetheless, he was quickly re-signed to the Giants 53 man roster. For three years, Patten was used as a 5th/6th receiver, and as a key player in the return game.
Following the 1999 season, Patten landed with the Cleveland Browns, where he had a career season, catching 38 passes for 546 yards while starting ten games. In April 2001, David Patten signed a four year contract with the Patriots. The next four years were history, as David Patten became a big play threat and versatile weapon for the Patriots. Who could forget his game against the Colts where he ran, threw, and caught a touchdown? What about his memorable performances in the 2001 playoffs? His resurgence as a deep threat in 2004? But this article's purpose isn't reminiscing about the OLD David Patten, it's about why not to count out the 35 year old David Patten who is currently a part of the New England Patriots, as he makes the eighth team change since his senior season at Western Carolina.
When Patten signed with the Patriots, almost everyone except for Patten himself was already counting him out. Jokes were made about how the Patriots should bring back the likes of Troy Brown, Irvin Fryar, and Stanley Morgan to solve the Patriots receiving woes. People compared the situation to when Patrick Pass was brought back last season (and lasted just over a week).
While people were happy with having David Patten on the roster, no one gave him a chance. After the Patriots brought in the likes of Taylor Price and Torry Holt, David Patten essentially became an afterthought. But Patten is already used to being an after thought, to being a forgotten man.
David Patten might not have the electrifying speed and quickness he had in his first stint with the Patriots, but he has showed he still has a lot to offer. In the first round of OTA's, without quarterback Tom Brady in attendance, Patten looked sharp, and took on a leadership role with the Patriots. At that time, I asked myself if Patten would be able to continue his strong performance as most of the team's other veterans joined the team for on-field activities.
So far, Patten has answered. He almost immediately re-established a rapport with Tom Brady, becoming one of Brady's favorite targets thus far during the OTA season. He has shown he still has that quick cut ability, and is always at the right place at the right time. He has also continued to be a role model for the young receivers (like Brandon Tate), has out-shined them at times, and has been a pleasant veteran presence for the Patriots thus far.
With the crowd the Patriots have at receiver, it's hard to say Patten is anything close to a roster spot. Still, he has performed admirably so far, and is making it harder for the Patriots not to keep him, especially with the chemistry he has with Tom Brady. The point is, while we were all quick to count David Patten out, don't underestimate him. Like Wes Welker, his career has been a career of defying the odds time and time again.