New England lost its original football star as the legendary Gino Cappelletti has passed away at the age of 89.

Cappelletti, also known as “The Duke,” was one of the original Boston Patriots, joining the franchise in its first season in 1960. He was both a placekicker and a wide receiver, and the first Patriot to win league MVP honors when he won the American Football League’s 1964 Most Valuable Player award. He played 11 seasons, hanging up his cleats after the 1970 season and finishing as the AFL’s all-time leader in points (1,100) and field goals (170).

Cappelletti earned the nickname “Mr. Patriot” because he filled so many roles for the franchise. Not only was a kicker and a wideout, but he also returned punts and kickoffs, played defensive back, and had one pass completion for a touchdown. To put that in the perspective of the dynasty-era Patriots, he was Troy Brown before Troy Brown.

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Modern-day fans probably best know Cappelletti for his years in the broadcast booth alongside Fairhaven native Gil Santos, who passed away in 2018. Cappelletti was a Patriots broadcaster from 1972-78 before joining the coaching staff as a special teams coach from 1979-81. He then returned to the booth in 1988, and after an initial season with Dale Arnold, Cappelletti was paired with Santos and the two remained broadcast partners for 28 seasons, calling 585 regular-season and postseason games together, including six Super Bowls.

Although Cappelletti was the second player ever to be enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame, he never made the Pro Football Hall of Fame – which feels like a snub considering he was the AFL scoring leader in five of his 11 seasons, and a five-time All-Star.

“As great of a player as he was, he was an even better person and storyteller,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. “On behalf of my family and the entire Patriots organization, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Gino’s wife, Sandy, their three daughters, Gina, Cara and Christina, and their 10 grandchildren, as well as the many others who will be mourning his loss.”

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