Long before the Patriots were the Patriots, calling Foxborough their home and serving as the NFL’s gold standard, they were the AFL’s Boston Patriots, and they were Gino Cappelletti’s team through and through.
Cappelletti, somehow undrafted coming out of the University of Minnesota in 1960, joined the fledgling AFL that same year.
When he first arrived in Boston, he received snaps as a defensive back and took over kicking duties. By the end of the season, he was already playing wideout and serving as QB Babe Parilli’s main outlet (is it any wonder this team was beloved in the North End?).
By 1964, he was already the AFL’s MVP.
Cappelletti played 11 years in the AFL, all with the Patriots, finishing past the 1,000-point mark and ranking as the conference’s all-time leading scorer.
He passed away at the age of 89 on Thursday, with his place secure in the Patriots Hall of Fame as one of the franchise’s all-time icons, and his future clear as someone who parents and grandparents will always tell their kids about before moving on to the modern era of the museum.
Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti passes away
Though Adam Vinatieri now holds his franchise scoring record, he can never match The Duke’s all-around Patriots career, from his brief time on the sidelines as a coach to his 28 years alongside Gil Santos in the booth.
Cappelletti’s trademark enthusiasm helped mark six Super Bowls over the airwaves, and he can also be heard shouting in disbelief over the din of the crowd as Doug Flutie defeated the Miami Hurricanes with his infamous Hail Mary.
His retirement from broadcasting in 2012 marked the end of a second Cappelletti era, broadening the horizons of just how well-known an AFL kicker could be post-merge.
Cappelletti has always been a massive part of Patriots history, the shining chain link between their humble beginnings and status as a modern megalith.
He will not be forgotten.