As one of the original American Football League franchises, the New England Patriots have a long, storied list of historical players. While there were several stars on those early Patriots teams, there were none bigger than former defensive end Bob Dee. Throughout the off-season, the Patriots office of Last Word on Pro Football is chronicling the legacies of several Patriots legends. Last week, we paid tribute to former linebacker Andre Tippett. This week, we go back another twenty years to the original Patriots pass rusher.
New England Patriots of the Past: Bob Dee
Before the Patriots
While Dee would go on to become a New England legend, he had always called Massachusetts home. Born in Quincy in 1933, Dee spent his college years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Dee was one of the better athletes to go through Holy Cross and was a three-sport letterman while in college.
While Dee was a part of the first ever Patriots team in 1960, his professional football career actually began before that. The defensive lineman was selected in the 19th round of the 1955 draft by the Washington Redskins and spent two seasons in the National Football League. However, after two seasons in Washington, Dee decided to return to his alma mater to serve as a tutor for the teams defensive linemen.
1960-1967: The Ironman Legend
Dee returned to the professional world in 1960, signing with the newly-formed Boston Patriots. He was one of the first signings the team ever made, and immediately established himself as one of the most important players in the young franchise.
Dee is best known for his incredible durability. He was a true ironman in every sense of the phrase, playing in 112 consecutive games from 1960-1967. The lineman notoriously wore the same helmet in almost every game he played. According to varies sources, Dee wore his original helmet in 106 of a possible 112 games, despite increases in helmet safety throughout his career.
It wasn’t just his consecutive games streak that made his career so impressive, but rather how he played in those games. Dee was one of the most dominant linemen in the league from his very first game. The Patriots played in the first game in AFL History, and Dee of all people recorded the league’s first points. The D-lineman recovered a fumble by Buffalo Bills quarterback Tommy O’Connell in the end zone for the league’s first touchdown.
His career would only improve from there. Dee established himself as one of the most physical and punishing defensive linemen in the league, racking up 33 sacks in his eight years in the league. Dee’s play earned him five AFL All-Star nominations to go along with four Second-team All-AFL honors.
One of Dee’s more memorable games came in the 1963 Eastern Divisional Playoff Game against the rival Bills. Dee recorded two interceptions in that game, and famously played one sneaker and one shoe with spikes, supposedly to help his grip in the snow. The method might have been unconventional, but the result worked. The Patriots won, 26-8, in large part thanks to his efforts.
Life After Football
Despite being one of the better players in the AFL, Dee decided to call it a career after the 1967 season. Despite still being a solid starter in the league, Dee said he had a business offer that was too good to refuse. Dee opened Jet Line Services, Inc., and spent the rest of his life in the hazardous waste cleanup business.
Dee tragically passed away on April 18th, 1979. While on a business trip in Portsmouth, NH, Dee suffered a heart attack and did not survive. Dee was only 45 at his passing, and he left behind three sons and a daughter
Bob Dee was posthumously inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in August 1993. Dee’s spot in Patriots history is so huge that he was just the fourth player ever inducted. The organization also retired his jersey number, 89, and his famous helmet currently resides in The Hall at Patriot Place.