The New England Patriots have a storied history. As one of original teams in the NFL merger from 1970, the franchise has had its share of legends and stars throughout their history. However, their first big star burst onto the scene before the Patriots were even part of the National Football League. From 1960 to 1970, the Patriots franchise was a part of the American Football League, and there was no bigger star of that league than former Patriot Gino Cappelletti.
Gino Cappelletti: The First Patriot
Gino Cappelletti was one of the members of the original 1960 Boston Patriots, and he immediately gave fans a reason to show up to the games. Cappelletti was a true do-it-all player, as he served as the teams best wide receiver, defensive back, and placekicker.
Not only could Cappelletti do everything, he could do it all well. The University of Minnesota product won All-Star honors five times, was named Second-Team All-AFL four times, and won AFL MVP in 1964. Gino accounted for an astonishing 34% of the Patriots points from 1961-1969, a record that still stands to this day. Cappelletti led the AFL in scoring in five separate years, and was easily the best player on those early Patriot teams.
Cappelletti retired from football after the 1970 season after 10 historic seasons. He ended his career as the all-time leading scorer in the AFL with 1,310 points. His most memorable season came in his 1964 MVP season, when he accounted for 155 points. Cappelletti’s franchise record 155 points in a season would last all the way until 2005, when Adam Vinatieri broke it.
Cappelletti wasn’t just good at finding the endzone (and hitting the ensuing kick), as he also finished his career in the top-ten in the AFL in both receptions and yards. Despite the passing boom that’s taken off since the 1960’s, Gino’s stats are still among the best in Patriots history. As of this posting, Cappelletti ranks tenth in receptions, eighth in receptions yards, and fifth in touchdowns in team history.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cappelletti was also the teams punt and kickoff returner, along with a starting defensive back. While his work in those positions wasn’t as prolific as his work as a receiver, he was still very good for his time. His phenomenal career accomplishments landed him in the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 1992.
Life After Football
While Cappelletti may have left the football field in 1970, he remained a large part of the football culture. He was the voice of the Patriots Radio Network from 1988 until his retirement in 2012. Working alongside Gill Santos, the two became one of the most renowned and beloved broadcasting duos in sports.
Gill Santos and Gino Cappelletti broadcasted games together for 28 seasons, which remains the longest tandem in NFL radio history. Together, the duo called several famous Patriots moments, including the first three Patriots Super Bowl victories.
Additionally, Gino also called the now-famous “Hail Flutie” game for the Boston College Eagles. Cappelletti can be heard yelling “He got it! He got it! I don’t believe it!” Both on the field and in the broadcast booth, Cappelletti has been one of the most influential players in the history of New England football.