Gino Cappelletti, an original member of the Boston Patriots and one of the greatest players in the history of the American Football League, has died at the age of 89.
A wide receiver, defensive back and kicker, played all 10 of the AFL’s seasons before it merged with the NFL, and never missed a game in those 10 seasons. With 1,100 points scored, he was the leading scorer in the history of the AFL, and in 1964 he was named the AFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Despite a good college career as a quarterback at Minnesota, Cappelletti wasn’t chosen in the 1955 NFL draft, and he then joined the U.S. Army and played some minor league football, and he easily could have never had a professional football career.
But when the AFL came along, Cappelletti tried out for the Patriots, and he made an immediate impact. At first, he played on defense, and his efforts included a three-interception game as a rookie. After his first season he switched over to offense, and over the course of his career he caught 292 passes for 4,589 yards and five touchdowns.
All the while, Cappelletti was one of the best kickers in football, leading the AFL in field goals three times. He retired after the 1970 season.
Upon retirement, Cappelletti worked in broadcasting, and the was the Patriots’ radio commentator for seven years before a three-year stint as the Patriots’ special teams coach. He then returned to the broadcast booth before retiring in 2012.
“My heart aches after learning of Gino Cappelletti’s passing this morning,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. “For the first 51 years of this franchise’s history, Gino contributed as an all-star player, assistant coach and broadcaster. You couldn’t be a Patriots fan during that era and not be a fan of Gino’s. The Patriots have had many iconic, fan-favorite players over the years. Gino was the first. I remember watching him play in 1960 and throughout his career. He was one of the AFL’s biggest stars, becoming the first Patriots player to earn league MVP honors and retiring as the league’s all-time leading scorer. He became the second player in franchise history to earn Patriots Hall of Fame induction and I will always believe he deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”