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Pats' Past: How the Patriots got their name

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On February 20, 1960, the nickname “Patriots” was announced.

Tony Collins carries the ball Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images

On November 16, 1959, after an 11-year hiatus, professional football finally returned to the northeast: The newly formed American Football League awarded its eighth and final franchise to Boston businessman Billy Sullivan. The 44-year old, who had previously failed to get an NFL franchise to the city, started to build his team by hiring Mike Holovak as assistant coach and head scout and Ed McKeever as the club's first general manager.

Both Holovak and McKeever had previously worked at Boston College, Sullivan's alma mater. The new owner's third hire would also have a connection to Sullivan: Jack Grinold, who would go on to serve in the public relations department. Before moving into business, Sullivan was working in the then-Boston Braves' PR department – on a team that also employed Grinold's father as the team doctor.

With his background in marketing, Sullivan knew that a catchy name for his new team was a must. He trusted Grinold to find one – but not without some publicity to go along with the search for the name: The team set up both a contest for fans to submit names for Boston's new pro football franchise as well as an essay contest for school kids in which they argued what the new name should be.

The submissions ranged from Beantowners to Colonials, from Puritans to Braves. In the end, though, three finalists emerged: Minuteman, Bulls and – you guessed it – Patriots. 74 people, who according to Bob Hyldburg would all receive tickets for one of the team's home games, submitted the latter and on February 20, 1960 the AFL's final franchise officially received its name: the Boston Patriots.

On the same day, the team also announced that its colors would be a fitting red, white and blue. Two months after the name and team colors were made public, the team's logo was unveiled: “Uniformed Patriot centering football” – colloquially known as Pat Patriot – by Worcester cartoonist Phil Bissell was adopted as the new logo.

For more information on the Patriots' early days, please check out “From Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots” by Jerry Thornton.