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Happy 81st Birthday, Gino Cappelletti

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A Patriots legend turns 81 today.

The only man to ever wear the Patriots' #20 jersey.
The only man to ever wear the Patriots' #20 jersey.
Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe staff

Friday, September 9th, 1960 marked the first time the newly formed Boston Patriots stepped onto a field to participate in a competitive football game. It was day one of the inaugural American Football League season and the team hosted the Denver Broncos in Nickerson Field. Among the players was a 26-year old, who would go on to become a legend: Gino Cappelletti.

The Patriots would eventually lose the game 13-10 but Cappelletti scored the young franchise's first points, a 35-yard field goal in the first quarter. This field goal marked the first three points of Cappelletti's career - 1,127 would follow. When he retired after the 1970 season, having played in every one of Boston's AFL games, he was both the Patriots' and the AFL's all-time leading scorer. His franchise record would stand until 2005, when it was broken by Adam Vinatieri (whose record was since broken by Stephen Gostkowski).

Cappelletti's accomplishments are not limited to his AFL scoring record.

He also was a five-time AFL All Star as well as the league's most valuable player in 1964. He earned those accolades not only by kicking the football but by catching and returning it as well. Over the course of his 11-year career, the man known as "The Duke" caught 292 passes for 4,589 yards and 42 touchdowns. Cappelletti also kicked 176 field goals (out of 333 attempts) and 342 extra points. His talents were not limited to offense and special teams: he also intercepted four passes in his first year in Boston.

After retiring at the age of 36, Cappelletti remained an important figure of the New England sports culture.

In 1992, he was inducted into the Patriots' Hall of Fame (thus far he has not been inducted into the pro football version) and his jersey number (20) was retired by the franchise. Furthermore, he became the team's color commentator, working alongside Gil Santos. The duo called 585 Patriots' games; among them three of four Super Bowl wins.

In 2012, "The Duke" ended his broadcasting career:

As they say in the huddle after a long, successful day’s work, it’s time to take a knee and celebrate the win!

Today, Gino Cappelletti - rightfully so - is still regarded as one of the greatest players to ever don the Patriots' uniform.

Happy 81st birthday, Duke!