There is a man walking around Western Carolina University’s campus that has three NFL Super Bowl rings.
Former NFL player and Catamount Alumni David Patten has returned to WCU to join the coaching staff.
The former NFL wide receiver, who won three NFL championships with the New England Patriots, is excited to be a part of WCU’s football program and to help advance the program.
“I am excited to be here. The guys have the right mindset and attitude, and we are all excited for what is to come,” said Patten.
Patten is excited to teach the team what he has learned throughout his life.
Patten was born in Columbia, S.C., where he had a unique childhood.
“My childhood was a little different than the average. I started playing football when I was 8, and since then, I was always active and playing,” said Patten. “When I got older, I started working for my Dad in the landscaping business. For much of my life, all I knew was school, football and work.”
Though he did not realize it at the time, all his work during his youth would mark in him a characteristic that separated him from the majority.
“I really believe that all the work my dad made me do gave me a work-driven mindset to work with a passion and to transfer that onto the football field. I would play games on Friday nights, then wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and work until 8 at night,” said Patten.
Patten played high school football but did not leave the high school field with a splash.
“I wasn’t all-American or all-conference. I was an average player. I finished my senior year with just 18 catches and 400 yards,” said Patten.
Patten received letters of intent from Louisiana State University, University of South Carolina, North Carolina A&T State University and Western Carolina University. Patten’s intent was to play at a Division 1 school, but the scholarships did not work out. Patten chose to play at WCU.
Patten came to WCU with high hopes for a great four years of college football but ended up going through a period of testing from God.
“I came in behind two all-American receivers; I didn’t start until my senior year,” said Patten. “My first year at college I stayed committed to my faith and football. Overtime, I began seeing my teammates party and still perform well on the field. I figure if they could do it, then so can I,” recalled Patten.
Patten slowly began to drift into the party scene to the point where he declared himself an alcoholic.
“My senior year I got a DUI and had to take some alcohol awareness classes. While I was there hearing the testimonies of people’s struggle, I began to realize I was on the same path. I knew then I had to give my life back to Jesus Christ,” said Patten.
At the end of his four years at WCU, Patten came up short of hours to graduate and was not drafted by the NFL. Shortly after leaving WCU, Patten found himself playing for the Canadian Football League.
“I made the team, and that very night I went out to party. The next morning, my coach walked in my room and saw me hung over. I was released shortly after. I knew this was God working in my life all along,” said Patten.
Patten returned home to South Carolina where he worked at a coffee bean factory. He eventually tried out for the Arena Football League and played a season with the Albany Firebirds but lost in the playoffs to the Iowa Barnstormers and their quarterback, future NFL star Kurt Warner.
Following the loss, Patten returned home and worked for the next eight months, not playing any football. It was a period where Patten sought God and looked for His will in his life.
“God stripped football from my life in order to bring me closer to Him,” said Patten. “I knew it was God who shut the door. Nothing else explains it.”
After participating in an NFL workout at USC, Patten quickly found himself a member of the New York Giants.
Patten played with the Giants for three years and then signed with the Cleveland Browns for one year. He then signed with the New England Patriots in 2001.
“Coming into the Patriots organization was a little tough because of Bill Belichick. He had a drill-sergeant shell to him where you immediately knew that if you didn’t work hard, you weren’t going to make it,” said Patten. “Two weeks into training camp, Bill calls me over and tells me I am going to start and they wanted to sign me to an extension,” said Patten.
Patten played with the Patriots the following three years where he won three Super Bowl championships.
“I was blessed enough to play for a great team and alongside great football minds such as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick,” said Patten.
What Patten learned in the NFL that he wants to communicate to WCU’s football team is the value of teamwork.
“Playing for the Patriots taught me the importance of teamwork and how every single person has a role to play in the team,” said Patten.
Patten officially retired from the NFL in 2010 and is back at WCU looking to finish his degree and dip his toes into coaching college football.
“Before I dive into the world of coaching, I want to make sure I can do it before I commit whole-heartedly to it,” said Patten.
When asked if he had a back-up plan if coaching does not work out, without missing a beat, he replied, “Ministry. My life is ministry.”
Patten believes the biggest lesson he has learned throughout life is the value of maximum effort.
“Whatever we do in life, the key is giving maximum effort in everything we do. The value of your work cannot be judged. That’s why it’s so great. It’s between you and God,” said Patten.
Patten also attached this Bible verse.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:23-24).