It’s hard to believe that at the age of 54, Mosiula Faasuka Tatupu passed away at Attleboro’s Sturdy Memorial Hospital on Tuesday.
Times were different then.
More often than not, the team was good, though never great; its one trip to a Super Bowl resulted in a 36-point humiliation.
The franchise stadium was constructed at approximately the same cost the team will pay its franchise player this year.
And in a section of that thrice-named stadium (Schaefer, Sullivan, Foxboro) sat a group of fans as distinct as the man they admired.
They called themselves “Mosi’s Mooses.”
“Everyone loved Mosi because he was a workingman’s football player,” former New England Patriots quarterback (1975-1990) Steve Grogan said Wednesday. “Whether it was special teams, goal-line back, blocking or catching, whatever he had to do he did it. People appreciated that.
“He was a fun guy in the locker room and a fun guy on the playing field. He was always having fun.”
He was, well, unique.
As former Patriots wide receiver (1977-1989) Stanley Morgan said in a press release issued by the team: “There was only one Mosi. I first met Mosi the year after I came to the Patriots, when he got here in 1978, and it was love at first sight I guess you could say. He got along great with everybody. He had that air about him that you were comfortable around him all the time and nobody was a stranger around him. People were attracted to that.”
Hard to believe that at the age of 54, Mosiula Faasuka Tatupu passed away at Attleboro’s Sturdy Memorial Hospital on Tuesday (while a cause of death wasn’t immediately released, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported “Tatupu suffered from high-blood pressure and other ailments”).
Hard enough for one former teammate, fellow fullback Mark van Eeghen, to believe that he was prompted to pick up the phone Wednesday morning and call the “Dale & Holley” show on Boston radio station WEEI.
“Mosi’s smile,” van Eeghen recalled, “was as wide as his shoulders.”
His running was as clear as the driven snow.
Fact is, it was best in the driving snow.
Born in Pago Pago, American Samoa, Tatupu came to be known as the “Snowin’ Samoan” in these parts.
He got the nickname the good, old-fashioned way, of course. He earned it.
A football generation before the “Snow Bowl” there was the “Snow Plow Game” of Dec. 12, 1982, Tatupu, perhaps even more than Mark Henderson and his John Deere tractor, paving the way for a 3-0 victory by plowing through the Miami Dolphins for 81 yards on 13 carries.
Henderson’s work that day may have been a con job, the work release inmate directed onto the field by the Patriots’ sideline, but there was no disputing Tatupu’s work that day.
“That’s probably the game everybody remembers most,” Grogan said from his business, Grogan-Marciano Sporting Goods in Mansfield. “Here was this Samoan who’d grown up in Hawaii and played his football at Southern California, and he was our best running back in the snow. He was amazing at it.”
More fan favorite than football phenom, Tatupu, selected in a round of the NFL draft (the eighth) that no longer exists, still managed to carve out a 14-year career, spending 13 seasons in New England (1978-1990) and a five-game stint with the-then Los Angeles Rams in 1991.
Pushed back to 14th on the Patriots’ all-time rushing list by Laurence Maroney this past season, he ranks 29th on the club’s all-time scoring list. Yet when the Patriots’ 50th anniversary team was selected last fall, there was Tatupu, honored for his efforts on special teams.
“Mosi’s Mooses” nodded their antlers in approval, no doubt.
“He went to work every day, brought his lunch pail to the locker room,” Grogan said of Tatupu, who coached his son, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, at King Philip Regional and served as an assistant at Curry College from 2002-2007. “He could have played in any era and been effective.”
“There was an entire section of the stadium known as ‘Mosi’s Mooses,’” Patriots owner Robert Kraft pointed out in the team’s press release, “but I think everyone in the stadium considered themselves one of his supporters.”
Staff writer Glen Farley can be reached at email@example.com.