Former Patriots defensive tackle Houston Antwine, a six-time American Football League all-star and one of the members of the franchise's 50th anniversary team, died of heart failure on Monday night in Memphis, Tenn., at age 72, the team confirmed.
His wife, Evelyn, died less than 24 hours later of lung cancer. Services and burial have yet to be determined.
Antwine, a pass-rushing specialist, played 11 seasons for the Patriots from 1961-1971, sticking with the team through the AFL-NFL merger. In addition to being on the Pats' anniversary team, he is also a member of the All-AFL team.
"For those of us who grew up watching the Boston Patriots, this is a really sad day," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement released by the team. "In the 1960s, the defensive tackle tandem of 'Twine' and Jim Lee Hunt were as good as any in the league and helped propel the Patriots to the franchise's first division championship in 1963.
"Myra and I had the good fortune of hosting Houston and his wife, Evelyn, at my home just two years ago when we honored the Patriots 50th Anniversary Team. I loved hearing Houston's stories about those early days in Boston. It was such a thrill for me, personally, to spend time with the players from that era. I am saddened to learn of the deaths of both Houston and Evelyn and want to express my deepest sympathies to the Antwine's daughter, Regina, and all who mourn her losses. Let us all cherish life and remind loved ones how we feel about them daily."
From 2009-11, the Patriots Hall of Fame nomination committee picked Antwine as one of three finalists for induction, but he was beaten out each time. In 2011, Antwine finished second in the fan balloting to Drew Bledsoe.
The Louise, Miss., native was an AFL all-star for six consecutive seasons, from 1963-68. In 142 regular season games for the Patriots, he recorded 39 sacks, leading the team in that category for three straight seasons from 1967-69.
After starring at Southern Illinois University in both football and wrestling, Antwine was originally drafted by the Houston Oilers in the eighth round of the 1961 AFL draft by the Houston Oilers. He was traded to the Patriots soon after and never played for the Oilers. He spent 11 of his 12 professional seasons with the Patriots, playing his final season in 1972 with the Philadelphia Eagles.