David Patten, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, died Thursday at the age of 47.
Patriots CEO Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick honored the former wide receiver in statements released Friday afternoon, calling Patten “an essential person and player” in the history of the organization.
“I am heartbroken by the news of David’s passing,” Kraft’s statement read. “He was a devout Christian who followed his passion following his football career and founded his own ministry. David transitioned from an undersized and understated wide receiver to a powerful and passionate preacher. In New England, he will always be remembered as a three-time Super Bowl champion. His touchdown reception in the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh propelled the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI and I’ll never forget his remarkable catch in the back of the end zone in that game. It was our only offensive touchdown in the Super Bowl and secured our first championship in franchise history. Our sincerest sympathies are with his wife, Galiena, his family and all who are mourning David’s tragic and untimely death.”
Patten played in 60 games and made 47 starts, including playoffs, as a member of the Patriots from 2001 through 2004. He caught a combined 180 passes for 2,687 yards and 18 touchdowns during his initial tenure. Patten became the sixth player since 1960 to account for catching, rushing and passing touchdowns in a single game versus the Indianapolis Colts.
“It breaks my heart to hear of David’s tragic passing at such a young age,” Belichick said. “I am grateful to have coached David. He is an essential person and player in Patriots history, without whom we would not have been Super Bowl champions. I especially appreciate David for his professional journey. As much as anyone, David epitomized the unheralded, self-made player who defied enormous odds to not only earn a job in the NFL but to become a key player on multiple championship teams.”
Undrafted out of Western Carolina in 1996, Patten worked 10-hour shifts in a coffee bean factory, loading 75-pound bags onto 18-wheeler trucks before beginning his professional career with the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound receiver would spend parts of three seasons with the New York Giants and one season with the Cleveland Browns on the way to signing with the Patriots in 2001.
Patten, who also played with Washington and the New Orleans Saints during his 12-year NFL career, retired during Patriots training camp in 2010. The Columbia, S.C. native later returned to Western Carolina to finish his degree in social work and was announced as part of the Catamounts’ coaching staff in 2013.
“I can speak for anyone who had the pleasure to be around David that his work ethic, positive energy and character were elite,” Belichick continued. “My deepest condolences are with his family and loved ones.”