New England Patriots: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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(1960-70). Gino Cappelletti. 14. player. 47. . WR/K

  • AFL MVP (1964)
  • New England Patriots No. 20 jersey retired
  • 5x AFL All-Star (1961, 1963-66)
  • 4x Second-Team All-AFL (1961, 1963-64, 1966)
  • New England Patriots Hall of Fame

After being out of football in the late 1950s, coming aboard as a member of the Patriots in their inaugural AFL season in 1960 was the best thing for Gino Cappelletti. One could easily argue that he was the first star player in the history of the Patriots, along with quarterback Babe Parilli.

Together, they formed the quarterback/wide receiver tandem known as “The Grand Opera Twins”, a play on their Italian surnames. Cappelletti first came to the Patriots in 1960 as a placekicker and a defensive back. While he would kick field goals and extra points throughout his Patriots career, Cappelletti’s AFL career would really take flight once he switched to receiver in 1961.

From 1961 to 1966, Cappelletti would make the AFL All-Star Team five times. He was second team all-league in four of those years in 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1966. Being able to help generate offense for the Patriots with both his arms and legs helped make him one of the most valuable players in the AFL.

In fact, Cappelletti would be named AFL MVP in 1964. That year, he made 64.1 percent of his field goals, leading the league in made field goals (25) and field goal attempts (39). As a receiver, Cappelletti set career highs in receptions with 49 and receiving yards with 865 for seven touchdowns.

Cappelletti would be used in the Patriots’ receiving game from 1961 to 1968, where he had 292 receptions for 4,589 yards and 42 touchdowns in his professional career. Those were all franchise records at the time of his retirement. He is one of only 20 players to play in the AFL for its entirety.

As a placekicker, Cappelletti led the AFL in made field goals and field goal attempts on three occasions. In 1965, he led the AFL in field goal percentage at 63.0 percent, making 17 of 27 of his field goal tries that campaign. Cappelletti kicked with the Patriots through the 1970 NFL season before retiring at the age of 36.

After playing ball with the Patriots for 11 seasons, Cappelletti would carve out a successful career in radio as a color commentator opposite of Gil Santos. That tandem called Patriots games for 28 excellent seasons on the air.

To date, Cappelletti remains on the outside looking in at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Hall of Very Good in 2003. Cappelletti has his No. 20 jersey retired by the Patriots organization. “Mr. Patriot” obviously is a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, earning enshrinement in 1992.