Happy Birthday to The Duke, Gino Cappelletti. Mr. Patriot turns 83, born on this day in 1934 in Keewatin Minnesota. With all due respect to the GOAT, nobody embodies the entire history of the Patriot franchise more than this legend. His absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame is shameful, something that will hopefully be rectified before it is too late for him to be honored in person.
After a two year stint in the Army and some time playing football in Canada, Cappelletti was one of hundreds of players to tryout for the Boston Patriots. On September 9, 1960 he kicked a field goal at Nickerson Field for what would be the first points scored in an American Football League game.
When he retired eleven years later he had scored an AFL record 1,130 points. At that time the only NFL player with more career points were Hall of Famers Lou Groza and George Blanda.
Cappelletti was incredibly versatile. In that 1960 season he was a starting cornerback. For the next three years he was the Pats starting split end, and then was the team’s starting flanker for the next four years. Of course he handled the kicking duties as well from 1960-1970. Cappelletti caught 292 passes for 4,589 yards and 42 touchdowns, picked off four passes and kicked 176 field goals in his storied career.
For those who played prior to the 16-game schedule Gino holds the second and third most points in a single season. Those 155 points in 1964 and 147 points in 1961 are the most in AFL history, and still to this day rank in the top 25 in NFL history. He also holds the AFL record of 28 points scored in a single game. Cappelletti holds the pro football record for points per game over six consecutive seasons (9.5), points per game over 11 seasons (7.5), and percentage of a team’s points over eight seasons (34%).
The Duke was a five-time All-Star and AFL MVP in 1964. His versatility is perhaps best exemplified by a milestone that will never be broken. In 1960 he ran for a two-point conversion, completed a pass for a two-point conversion, caught a pass, intercepted a pass, returned a punt and returned a kickoff. Nobody in pro football history has ever before or since accomplished that feat. In 1992 Cappelletti became the second player to be enshrined to the Patriots Hall of Fame, and his number 20 is now retired.
His contributions to football did not end with his retirement at age of 36 prior to the 1971 season. Mr. Patriot became the voice of the Pats, providing the commentary for Patriot radio broadcasts for 28 years. He also did Boston College games, and was the voice famously proclaiming ‘he caught it, he caught it, I don’t believe he caught it!‘ on Doug Flutie’s miracle Hail Mary touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984.
Considering all of this, can anybody honestly justify how people like Jerry Jones, Bill Polian or Kurt Warner are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – but Gino Cappelletti is not?
I didn’t think so.
Posted Under: Patriots Milestones
Tags: American Football League Boston Patriots former New England Patriots Gino Cappelletti New England Patriots History Patriots Hall of Fame Patriots history Pats Alumni Pro Football Hall of Fame team records