Three-time Super Bowl winner David Patten died on Thursday aged 47.
The former New England Patriots wide receiver was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident near Columbia in his native South Carolina.
Patten played for five NFL teams, most notably helping the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick win their first three Super Bowls between 2001 and 2004.
He caught Tom Brady’s first post-season touchdown pass as the Patriots beat the St Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl 36.
Patten went undrafted in 1996 but still made it to the NFL, after a season with the Albany Firebirds in the Arena Football League.
He joined the New York Giants in 1997 and also played for the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints.
“It breaks my heart to hear of David’s tragic passing at such a young age,” said Belichick, who is still the Patriots coach.
“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 epitomised 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.”
Across 12 NFL seasons, the 5ft 10in receiver played in 147 regular season games, claiming 324 catches for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft added: “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.”