David Patten, a longtime NFL receiver who won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, has died at age 47. Patten's former agent, Sam Gordon, confirmed the news to ESPN's Mike Reiss. Gordon spoke to Patten's wife Friday morning. Patten died following a collision while riding a motorcycle Thursday night, the Richland County (South Carolina) coroner's office confirmed Friday morning.
"We are all very heartbroken," Gordon said. "He was a man of God. He had his own ministry. He loved New England very much."
A 12-year NFL veteran, Patten played for five NFL teams. He caught 324 passes for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns during his career, which will largely be remembered for his time with the Patriots. He won three Super Bowls during his four years with the franchise.
"I am heartbroken by the news of David's passing," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement that was published on the team's website. "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."
"It breaks my heart to hear of David's tragic passing at such a young age," added Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "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. I can speak for anyone who had the pleasure to be around David that his work ethic, positive energy and character were elite. My deepest condolences are with his family and loved ones."
After playing collegiately at Western Carolina, Patten played one season for the Arena Football League's Albany Firebirds after not being selected in the 1996 draft. In 1997, Patten found his first NFL home with the Giants, where he would play his first three seasons. His first significant role on an NFL offense came in Cleveland, where he caught 38 passes for 546 yards during the 2000 season.
Patten's career took off upon joining the Patriots in 2001. In 16 games, Patten set then-career highs with 749 yards and four touchdowns on 51 receptions. He became the sixth player in league history (and just the second player since the merger) to catch, run and throw for touchdowns in New England's Week 6 win over the Colts. In the 2001 playoffs, Patten caught a crucial touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe during the Patriots' 24-17 win over the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. He caught Tom Brady's first-career Super Bowl touchdown pass one week later during the Patriots' 20-17 win over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
A starter on the Patriots' next two Super Bowl teams, Patten recorded a career-high 824 receiving yards in 2002, Brady's first full season as the Patriots' starting quarterback. After injuries limited him to just six games in 2003, Patten returned to catch a career-high seven touchdowns while helping the 2004 Patriots defeat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Patten then spent two seasons apiece in Washington and New Orleans; his best season during that span was in 2007, when he caught 54 passes for 792 yards and three touchdowns as a member of the Saints. He then had brief offseason stints with Cleveland and New England before announcing his retirement on July 31, 2010.
"You reflect now and say, 'Hey, your career wasn't that bad for a kid, undersized out of Columbia, South Carolina and a small I-AA school," Patten said after announcing his retirement. "Undrafted. Working in a coffee bean factory. Electrician work. Landscaper.' Who would have thought 12 years in the National Football League? Three championships. So many memories. Now I can sit back and reflect on it and pass this on to my kids."
In retirement, Patten returned to Western Carolina to complete his bachelor's degree in social work. He also began a career in ministry.