David Patten, one of the most clutch receivers in Patriots history and a three-time Super Bowl champion, died following a motorcycle accident Thursday night, the Richland County (S.C.) coroner’s office confirmed Friday. Patten was 47.
According to South Carolina Highway Patrol, Patten’s 2006 Kawasaki motorcycle veered into the opposing lane on Clemson Road in Richland County and hit a sedan, which then sideswiped a van. The accident is still under investigation.
“It breaks my heart to hear of David’s tragic passing at such a young age,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. “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.
“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.”
Patten, who had his own ministry, was in New England as recently as last week when he made an appearance at an autograph-signing event.
Patten was a key contributor on New England’s first Super Bowl-winning team. He caught a touchdown pass in the AFC Championship game against the Steelers from Drew Bledsoe, and then hauled in Tom Brady’s first career postseason scoring strike in the Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams.
“I’ll never forget his remarkable catch in the back of the end zone in that game,” team owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “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 finished that postseason run with 13 catches for 154 yards and those two nearly identical touchdown catches.
A one-time Arena League player, Patten signed with the Patriots in 2001 and spent four seasons in New England. In 54 games, he had 165 catches for 2,513 yards and 16 TDs.
One of Patten’s most memorable performances came in 2001 when he became the first NFL player since 1979 to run, catch, and pass for a touchdown in the same game, a 38-17 win over the Colts.
“It was one of those days when everything was clicking,” Patten told reporters. “Every time I touched the ball, I was able to make something happen. That’s what I pride myself on. I think I’m able to do that every time I go on the field, and today I made it happen.”
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis wrote on Twitter, “Shocked and saddened about the sudden tragic death of David Patten. Excellent player, even better person. Family guy, team guy, devout Christian. Prayers all directed this way. RIP David. You will be sorely missed.”
Scott Pioli, who served as New England’s vice president of player personnel during Patten’s tenure, added, “Hard to articulate the impact he had on our locker room and all of us around him.”
Many of Patten’s former Patriots teammates also weighed on social media, including Richard Seymour, who like Patten played at Lower Richland High in South Carolina.
“Heartbroken … Great man of God … Lost for words — David Patten,” Seymour posted.
In addition to the Patriots, Patten played for the New York Giants, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Washington. He finished his 12-year career with 324 catches for 4,715 yards and 24 TDs.