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Patriots legend Gino Cappelletti dead at 89

A member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, Cappelletti died on Thursday morning.

New England Patriots Legend Gino Cappelletti Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Gino Cappelletti, a founding member of the original Boston Patriots and member of the organization’s Hall of Fame, has passed away. As was announced by the Patriots, Cappelletti died in his home on Thursday morning at the age of 89.

Cappelletti made his pro football debut as a member of the newly founded Patriots in 1960. Over the next 11 years, he became one of the most recognizable faces of the young franchise — and one of the American Football League’s biggest stars.

“The Duke” was a five-time AFL All-Star, was voted the league’s most valuable player in 1964 and retired as its all-time leading scorer with 1,130 points.

Cappelletti earned all of those accolades not only by being one of the best players of his era, but also by being among its most versatile. He made 176 field goals (out of 333 attempts) as well as 342 of 353 extra points. He also caught 298 passes for 4,770 yards and 42 touchdowns. Furthermore, he intercepted four passes as a part-time defensive back.

Following his retirement, Cappelletti served as a broadcaster (1972-78, 1988-2011) and called a total of 585 games as the team’s color commentator alongside Gil Santos. From 1979 through 1981 he also served as special teams coach under Ron Erhardt.

The Patriots released the following statement on behalf of team owner Robert Kraft:

My heart aches after learning of Gino Cappelletti’s passing this morning. For the first 51 years of this franchise’s history, Gino contributed as an all-star player, assistant coach and broadcaster. You couldn’t be a Patriots fan during that era and not be a fan of Gino’s. The Patriots have had many iconic, fan-favorite players over the years. Gino was the first. I remember watching him play in 1960 and throughout his career. He was one of the AFL’s biggest stars, becoming the first Patriots player to earn league MVP honors and retiring as the league’s all-time leading scorer. He became the second player in franchise history to earn Patriots Hall of Fame induction and I will always believe he deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As great of a player as he was, he was an even better person and storyteller. On behalf of my family and the entire Patriots organization, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Gino’s wife, Sandy, their three daughters, Gina, Cara and Christina, and their 10 grandchildren, as well as the many others who will be mourning his loss.