After a 45-year career as a player, an assistant coach and a broadcaster, Gino Cappelletti retired from the Patriots Friday.
As a kicker and wide receiver in the AFL days of the Boston Patriots (playing in every game of their existence), he won a league MVP honor in 1964, and holds the league’s all-time records for points scored (1,100) and field goals (170).
After a seven-year stint in the broadcast booth, he spent three years as special teams coach (1979-81) before returning to his duties as color commentator in 1988.
“It was an instinct that sometimes is so personal that you know that it might be the time to make a decision like this,” Cappelletti told the Boston Herald. “It’s been 33 long years with the Patriots — not that they weren’t exciting and good years — but the length of time certainly has been part of that. Of course, I’ve got to believe that this was the time to do it, and I had a great experience with all of it. I look forward to many fond memories because of what we saw with the Patriots throughout the years with how they’ve improved in almost every category.
“They’re one of the elite teams in the National Football League at this point, and I’m just proud and honored to have been part of it.”
He was a huge part of their history, and was hailed as “one of the most iconic figures in franchise history,” by Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Going back to his days as one of the all-time great players, Gino has been such a fixture, so it is hard imagining not working with him on a regular basis,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. “I have been fortunate to enjoy Gino’s presence and share experiences that extend well beyond the game. Around the team, he wasn’t just a broadcaster but was — and remains — truly part of the team, respected by players and coaches for representing everything good about sports.
“Gino is a class act, one of the true gentlemen of the AFL and NFL and I am proud to have been associated with him every week of my career as Patriots head coach.”
Cappelletti said his favorite moment as a broadcaster was the Patriots “Snow Bowl” (or “Tuck Rule”) win over the Raiders in the 2001 playoffs, the game that sparked the most successful run in franchise history.
“The fact that they came from obscurity to win the game, it looked like the game was going to be over really in Oakland’s favor,” Cappelletti said. “Of course, the Tuck Rule thing helped, but it was the field goals that were made by Adam Vinatieri. Being a field-goal kicker myself, I lived it through him, and he was able to come through in such magnificent fashion under those conditions, that was just a tremendous kick, a tremendous field goal, and then to win it in overtime.
“What that game did, it catapulted the Patriots’ players into starting to believe that they could be competitive in the playoffs because they had not had that much success in the previous times that they were in the playoffs. That game was so big for the organization that I just have to say that it’s the game that comes to mind when you ask me that question.”
Of course, Cappelletti himself’s a significant part of that organization, which makes Friday a poignant day for Patriots fans.
(Photo credit: talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com)