Western Carolina’s football program has been in a tailspin over the last seven years, not seeing a winning season since posting a 5-4 record in 2005. With the hiring of Athletic Director Randy Eaton and Head Football Coach Mark Speir just a year ago, the foundation for turning this program around has been laid.
In February 2013, Western Carolina added another key ingredient to the mix. Former Catamount wide receiver (1992-1995) and 3-time Super Bowl champion David Patten, has joined the WCU coaching staff. Patten is a 12-year NFL veteran having played for the New York Giants, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and the Cleveland Browns.
During his standout career with the purple and gold, Patten hauled in 96 receptions for 1,563 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was a member of the “three amigos” that made up the Catamount receiving attack along with Kerry Hayes and Craig Aiken.
After his days in the valley, Patten was ignored by the NFL during the 1996 draft and was cut loose by the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He fell completely out of football and found himself working back home in a South Carolina warehouse.
“I came back home and I’m working in a coffe bean factory. At that time it appeared that your dream isn’t going to come to fruition,” said Patten. “I continued to believe, and at the time I couldnt really workout, but I knew in my mind and in my heart I still wanted to play.”
Patten finally got his shot at the NFL when he was signed by the New York Giants in 1997. Seeing limited opportunities at receiver, Patten’s main role with the Giants was on special teams as a kick returner. After three years with the Giants, he was yet again, released. His career received a shot in the arm when he was signed by the New England Patritots in 2001.
Perhaps the most decorated of Patten’s career, was his stint with the New England Patriots (2001-2004). In 2001, in a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Patten became only the sixth NFL player to throw, catch, and rush for a touchdown. He took one to the house off a 29-yard end-around; he caught a 91-yard bomb from quarterback Tom Brady; and topped it off by slinging a 60-yard option pass to wide receiver Troy Brown. He accounted for a total of four touchdowns that day against the Colts.
Patten really blossomed during his time with the Patriots. Along-side Tom Brady, he was a part of three Super Bowl championship teams (2002, 2004, 2005). His performace in Super Bowl XXXVI agianst the St. Louis Rams was nothing shy of spectacular. During the second quarter, Patten reeled in an 8-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone, helping his Patriots to a 20-17 victory to capture his first ring.
“My dream had come true. Everybody dreams of catching a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl and I achieved that,” Patten said. “It was as if all of the hard work, all of the set backs had made it that much sweeter. It made it all worth it.”
The success carried over for Patten in the following season where he amassed career highs in receptions (61) and yards (824) along with five touchdowns. After claiming his third ring in Super Bowl XXXIX, Patten was surpassed by the next batch of great Patriot receivers, David Givens and Deion Branch. From 2004 until 2010, Patten bounced around through free agency to different teams until finally announcing his retirement on July 31, 2010. Patten’s final tallies were impressive as he carved up defenses for 324 receptions, 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns. With his versatility, he spent some time in the backfield as well as a kick returner on special teams. The do-it-all receiver gobbled up 106 yards on the ground off 13 carries and a touchdown. He piled on 2,273 additional yardage and a touchdown while returning kicks.
On February 11, 2013, Western Carolina announced that David Patten is returning to WCU, this time as a member on the sideline.
“We’re very excited that David Patten is joining our football coaching staff for the 2013 season,” said Speir during the press conference in February. “David will bring a lot of energy, knowledge and passion to our program. Having someone like David with 12 years of NFL experience and three Super Bowl rings around our players and coaches will be a tremendous asset and boost to our program. He knows what it takes to compete at a high level and it’s awesome to be able to have a guy on staff that came through our program at Western Carolina and excelled on the highest stage.”
During Patten’s playing days at WCU, Speir was on the sideline as an assistant. They each left to pursue other careers in football, and now over a decade later, both have returned as coaches.
“Coach Speir called me out of the blue and asked me if I would be interested in coaching and I felt, ‘Hey lets give it a shot’ and see what comes out of it,” Patten said. “As a player, one of my strengths has always been the ability to motivate my fellow teammates and I felt with my experience, I can help instill within them the work ethic, and doing things the right way to give them the opportunity to be successful and help get this program turned around.”
David Patten discusses his football career at Western Carolina University (Interview conducted by Philip Jackson, video provided by Caleb Rutherford)