In a statement, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he was “heartbroken” after Patten’s body was identified by coroner Nadia Rutherford.
According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Nick Pye, Patten crossed the median and caused a crash that involved two other cars.
The incident remains under investigation by both the highway patrol and the coroner.
“He was a devout Christian who followed his passion following his football career and founded his own ministry,” Kraft said.
“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.
“It was our only offensive touchdown in the Super Bowl and secured our first championship in franchise history.”
The coach of the dynasty led by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, released his own tribute to the former Western Carolina alumni.
“It breaks my heart to hear of David’s tragic passing at such a young age,” he confessed.
“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.”
During a 12-year career in the NFL, of which his four seasons from 2001 to 2004 were a self-proclaimed highlight, Patten also enjoyed stints with the Washington Redskins, New Orleans and Cleveland Browns before retiring in the Patriots’ 2010 preseason camp.
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