Sam Berns, fan who inspired the Patriots, dies at 17

Sam Berns, a Foxborough teenager who became a source of inspiration within the Patriots’ locker room as he battled the rare disease progeria, has died at the age of 17.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was moved by Sam’s story after seeing the HBO documentary Life According to Sam, which detailed his struggle with progeria, a genetic disease that causes young children to exhibit symptoms usually found only in old age. After seeing the film, Kraft invited Sam to spend time with the team, and Kraft explained that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and other players and coaches said they were inspired by Sam before this season’s game against the Falcons.

“Brady was determined to be the player of the game down in Atlanta for Sam,” Kraft told Patriots.com. “NBC gives a ball to the player who was most outstanding in the game and when I told Tom I was seeing Sam again, he pulled that game ball out of his locker, gave it to me and said, ‘I think Sam should have it.’”

Kraft also described Sam as “a good businessman” after Kraft offered to donate $16,000 to progeria research — $1,000 for each year of Sam’s life — and Sam replied that Kraft should wait until after his birthday to make it $17,000. Kraft later spearheaded a fundraising drive that raised $1.18 million for progeria research, of which $500,000 came from Kraft personally.

Sam’s parents confirmed through the Progeria Research Foundation that Sam died on Friday of complications of progeria. The Patriots have announced that Sam will be remembered with a moment of silence before tonight’s game.

Photo via Patriots.com.