BOSTON -- Mosi Tatupu, one of the most popular players in New England Patriots history known for his inspired special teams play, has died.
Tatupu died Tuesday at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, hospital spokeswoman Ashley O'Brien said. He was 54. The hospital could not disclose a cause of death.
Mosi Tatupu, RB
The Plainville Fire Department responded to Tatupu's home on Tuesday and took him to the hospital, Lt. Richard Ball said.
"I know that I share a heavy heart today with Patriots fans everywhere who have learned of Mosi Tatupu's passing," team owner Robert Kraft said in a statement.
"He was a dominant special teams player and a punishing rusher who loved the Patriots as much as the fans did," he said.
The bruising 227-pound fullback rushed for 2,415 yards and 18 touchdowns, including a career best 578 yards in 1983. He thrived on snowy and icy fields, running for 128 yards on a snow-covered field in a win over New Orleans that season.
"As a teammate, he was one of the best," former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan said. "He was one of those guys that made life fun whether it was in the locker room or on the practice fields. He had a smile that radiated."
Tatupu was selected to New England's 50th anniversary team last season.
After his retirement as a player, Tatupu was the head coach at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, where he coached his son Lofa, now a linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks.
He also served as an assistant at Curry College in Milton from 2002-2007, coaching running backs and special teams.
"Mosi was a vital part of the success of our program," said Vinnie Eruzione, athletic director at the Division III school. "There was no better guy."
Tatupu was born in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and was a high school football star in Hawaii. His Hawaii high school career rushing record of 3,367 yards stood for 17 years, according to the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame Web site.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press