Richland County coroner Naida Rutherford said in a statement cited by The Associated Press that Patten, who won three Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, died Thursday in an accident outside Columbia, South Carolina, that involved two other vehicles.
Patten played with the Patriots from 2001 until 2004. He appeared in 147 NFL games, catching 324 passes for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement that he was “heartbroken” by Patten’s passing. He described the late athlete as 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. 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,” Kraft said. “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 teammate and outspoken Christian Benjamin Watson revealed how Patten inspired him in a Facebook tribute Sunday night.
“DP was of the greatest men I ever knew. He had a profound impact on my life as a young player. The way he loved his wife inspired me as a young husband. I’ll never forget how they would send each other flowers and the way he talked about his love for his bride and family. When others questioned my decision to get married at that age he told me what a blessing marriage was,” Watson explained.
“God blessed me to have DP in the locker next to mine at a challenging time in my life. He demonstrated his faith in a real and tangible way and encouraged me greatly. He preached the gospel to all who would hear. Love you my brother. Thank you. I will never forget you ‘Chief.’ Now go enjoy your reward!!! May the Lord comfort the Patten family, friend[s], teammates and coaches during this difficult time,” Watson wrote.
Bill Kimrey, who coached Patten at Lower Richland High School in South Carolina from 1989-1992, said that even as a teen, the star athlete was driven by his faith.