Former NFL wide receiver David Patten, who won three Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots, was killed in a motorcycle crash Thursday outside Columbia, South Carolina, according to Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford. He was 47.
According to South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Nick Pye, a motorcycle driver -- identified by the coroner as Patten -- crossed the median, causing a crash involving two other cars. One of the cars' drivers was also taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.
The crash remains under investigation by the highway patrol and the coroner.
"I am heartbroken by the news of David's passing," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. "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."
Patten played for five teams over a 12-year NFL career but is best known for his four seasons with the Patriots (2001-04), including two iconic catches to help New England capture its first Super Bowl win during the 2001 season. He hauled in an 11-yard touchdown from Drew Bledsoe during the Patriots' 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game and followed that with a leaping 8-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady in the second quarter of the Super Bowl. It was New England's lone offensive touchdown in the 20-17 win over the Rams.
When he retired during Patriots training camp in 2010, Patten described his time with the Patriots as the highlight of his career.
"It breaks my heart to hear of David's tragic passing at such a young age," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "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."
Former Patriots teammates Richard Seymour and Deion Branch and former New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis were among those eulogizing Patten on social media Friday.
Shocked and saddened about the sudden tragic death of David Patten. Excellent player, even better person. Family guy, team guy, devout Christian. Prayers all directed this way. RIP David. You will be sorely missed.— Charlie Weis (@charlieweissr) September 3, 2021
Sam Gordon, who had Patten as a client in his management firm, said he had spoken with Patten's wife and that they were "all very heartbroken" by his death.
"If there is one thing I want people to know about David, it's that as great a player he was, he was a better man," Gordon told ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Patten first emerged in the NFL with the New York Giants in 1997 after playing for the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. Mark Lepselter served as Patten's agent over his playing career, and he reflected Friday on having Patten sign a modest one-year contract with the Patriots in 2001 after one season with the Cleveland Browns.
"I remember him telling me, 'If it's a level playing field, I'll win the job.' That's what he did," Lepselter said. "He was a three-time Super Bowl champion, and I have always felt he was an integral part of the foundation Coach Belichick and the Patriots began building 20-plus years ago. He was the ultimate never-say-never individual -- truly remarkable perseverance."
Shortly after Patten's arrival, the Patriots quickly signed him to a three-year contract extension, with the wide receiver later saying: "That was the first organization that believed in me."
"While his tenure with the Saints was relatively short, he left an indelible mark on his teammates, coaches, and staff through his actions, words, and his infectious smile," the Saints said in a statement. "He was a tenacious competitor and infused the locker room with leadership and a winning spirit that remains to this day."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.