EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – David Patten, who began his improbable 12-year NFL career with the Giants and later won three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots, died yesterday in a motorcycle accident in Richland County, S.C., the area in which he grew up and returned to after his football career. He was 47.
Patten played for the Giants from 1997-99. After one season with the Cleveland Browns, he spent four with the Patriots and two apiece with Washington and New Orleans. He caught a touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe in the 2001 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh and another from Tom Brady in New England's 20-17 victory against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Patten also played on the Patriots teams that beat Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII (though he missed the postseason with an injury) and Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Patten played in 147 regular-season games with 71 starts and caught 324 passes for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also averaged 20.5 yards on 111 kickoff returns, including one he returned 90 yards for a touchdown for the Giants at Washington on Nov. 1, 1998.
In seven postseason games, including four starts, Patten had 20 receptions for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
No one expected Patten to post numbers like those when he was first knocking on the NFL door. Undrafted in 1996 after his career at Western Carolina, Patten worked in the landscaping business, as an electrician and hauling 75-pound cases in a coffee bean factory before catching on that summer with … the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. He played in just three games – one regular season and two postseason – and caught nine passes.
After sitting out the 1996 fall season, Patten signed with the Giants on March 24, 1997. He was waived on Aug. 24, signed to their practice squad the next day and back to the active roster on Aug. 27. In his debut season, he played in all 16 games with starts in the final three games and caught 13 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including a 40-yarder from Danny Kanell at Philadelphia on Dec. 7. Patten also started the NFC Wild Card Game vs. Minnesota and had a team-high 86 receiving yards on five catches.
In the next two seasons, Patten played in 28 games and had 20 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown. He led the Giants in kickoff returns in each of those seasons, averaging 21.7 yards on 43 runbacks in 1998 and 20.4 yards on 32 returns in '99.
Patten's most productive season was in New England in 2002, when he had career-high totals of 61 receptions for 814 yards and scored five touchdowns. He had a career-best seven touchdowns with the Patriots in 2004. Patten's longest catch was a 91-yard touchdown with New England in 2001, a season in which he also threw a touchdown pass.
Patten announced his retirement on July 31, 2010.
David Patten began his three-time championship career with the Giants