Tatupu remembered for 'lunchpail attitude' that won over fans
• Photo gallery: Mosi Remembered
Mosi Tatupu, one of the finest athletes to come out of Hawaii, was remembered this morning as a football player's player and coach's coach.
Tatupu, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, died yesterday at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, Mass., at the age of 54. A hospital spokesman did not disclose a cause of death.
The Plainville Fire Department responded to Tatupu’s home yesterday and took him to the hospital, Lt. Richard Ball said.
Reaction to his passing was swift — and universal in praise.
Tatupu had coached running backs at NCAA Division III Curry College in Milton, Mass., the past six years but took this season off to spend time with his family in the Seattle area, Curry coach Skip Bandini told boston.com this morning.
"He missed them and stuff and he wanted to go to spend time with them, and I'm glad he did it," Bandini said.
Bandini added, "He was all of our players' favorite coach and he was all of our coaches' favorite coach. ... You're not going to meet a better person on the planet."
Don Hasselbeck, a former New England Patriots tight end who was a teammate of Tatupu's, told the Boston Herald he was "devastated."
Hasselbeck's son, Matt, is a Seattle Seahawks teammate of Tatupu's son, Lofa.
“Man, I remember we used to tease (Mosi) because he played great in the snow, and he was from Hawaii," Hasselbeck said. "He had that running style, a great low base, he played so hard. Man, this is hard to comprehend with someone that age."
Tatupu, a multi-sport star at Punahou School in the 1970s, set a Hawaii career rushing record that stood for 17 seasons. He played four seasons at Southern Cal and was drafted in 1978 by the Patriots.
He played for the Patriots from 1978-1990 (he also played a season with the Rams) and generated such a following with his inspired special teams play that a fan section at Foxboro Stadium was called "Mosi's Mooses."
"They are great fans, but just to have your own section is an honor," Tatupu told boston.com in 2004. "I am sure if everybody had their own fan section like I did they would play just as hard as I tried to play. It inspired me to play harder because they were cheering for me and backing me up."
Former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan told ESPNBoston.com this morning that Tatupu won the fans over with his "lunchpail attitude."
"I think football fans in this area appreciate ... someone who shows up for work every day and that's what Mosi did," Grogan said. "I think his personality, the spirit and fun he showed on the field, transferred to fans. That's why they loved him so much."
Grogan said although Tatupu came to be known for his special teams play, "he was a really good football player who could do a lot of different things for you, from special teams, to goal-line situations, coming out of the backfield and catching the ball, blocking."
Grogan said Tatupu "could have played in any era, for anybody at any time. It's a shame that he's gone at such an early age."
Tatupu played in one Super Bowl (a loss to the Chicago Bears) and was selected to the 1986 Pro Bowl.
Tatupu would later have an award bearing his name and given to college football's special teams player of the year.
In 2009, Tatupu was named to the New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team as a special teams player. The team included such stars as Tom Brady, Jim Nance, Sam "Bam" Cunningham, Gino Cappelletti, John Hannah, Nick Buoniconti, Ted Bruschi, Mike Haynes, Ty Law and Rodney Harrison.
As a senior at Punahou, Tatupu set state records for rushing (1,483 yards), total offense (1,497 yards) and scoring (139 points on 21 touchdowns and 13 PATs). In three varsity seasons, he amassed 3,367 yards rushing and scored 37 touchdowns.