Richland County coroner Naida Rutherford said in a statement Patten was killed in a crash Thursday night outside of Columbia, South Carolina. The South Carolina Highway Patrol said the accident involved two other vehicles.
Patten played in 147 games for five teams from 1997–2008 but experienced his greatest success with the Patriots from 2001–04.
He caught the first postseason touchdown pass ever thrown by Tom Brady, a diving and twisting 8-yard reception in the end zone in the second quarter of a 20–17 victory against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. That Super Bowl title was the first for the franchise and launched a dynasty.
“It breaks my heart to hear of David’s tragic passing at such a young age,” head coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “I am grateful to have coached David. He is an essential person and player in Patriots history, without whom we would not have been Super Bowl champions.
“I especially appreciate David for his professional journey. As much as anyone, David epitomized the unheralded, self-made player who defied enormous odds to not only earn a job in the NFL but to become a key player on multiple championship teams. I can speak for anyone who had the pleasure to be around David that his work ethic, positive energy, and character were elite. My deepest condolences are with his family and loved ones.”
Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft also released a statement.
“I am heartbroken by the news of David’s passing. He was a devout Christian who followed his passion following his football career and founded his own ministry. David transitioned from an undersized and understated wide receiver to a powerful and passionate preacher,” Kraft said.
“In New England, he will always be remembered as a three-time Super Bowl Champion. His touchdown reception in the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh propelled the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI and I’ll never forget his remarkable catch in the back of the end zone in that game. It was our only offensive touchdown in the Super Bowl and secured our first championship in franchise history. Our sincerest sympathies are with his wife, Galiena, his family, and all who are mourning David’s tragic and untimely death.”
Former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour, center Damien Woody, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis paid tribute to Patten on social media.
“heartbroken (broken heart emoji),” Seymour posted on Twitter. “great man of God … lost for words—David Patten (prayer hands emoji).
“Rest in Power to my former teammate, one of the best men I’ve ever known… prayers to David Patten’s family,” Woody wrote on Twitter.
“Shocked and saddened about the sudden tragic death of David Patten,” Weis wrote. “Excellent player, even better person. Family guy, team guy, devout Christian. Prayers all directed this way. RIP David. You will be sorely missed.”
Patten finished his career with 324 receptions for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns with the New York Giants (1997—99), Cleveland (2000), New England, Washington (2005—06) and New Orleans (2007—08). He also rushed 13 times for 106 yards and a touchdown and returned 111 kickoffs for 2,273 yards and one score.
He added 20 catches for 260 yards and two TDs in seven postseason games. He added two more rings in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX.
Undrafted out of Western Carolina, the South Carolina native began his pro career with the Arena Football League’s Albany Firebirds in 1996.
By Field Level Media
The Associated Press contributed to this report