On November 16, 1959, Boston business executive
Billy Sullivan was awarded the eighth and final franchise of the developing American Football
League (AFL). One week later, Northwestern University running back Ron Burton was selected as the franchise's first draft choice and Syracuse running back Gerhardt Schwedes was selected as the team's
first territorial choice. Three key personnel decisions were made in the winter of 1960. First, former Boston College head coach Mike Holovak was named director of player personnel. Ed McKeever was hired as the team's first general manager and he selected Lou Saban as the team's first
One of the first orders of business of the management group was giving the franchise a name and that was accomplished through a public contest. Thousands of entries were submitted to name the team and 74 fans suggested the winning name, the Boston
Patriots. Shortly after the franchise name was chosen, Boston Globe artist Phil Bissell drew a cartoon of a Minuteman preparing to snap a football and owner Sullivan liked the drawing so much that he selected "Pat Patriot" as the team logo. On April 1, 1960, Nickerson Field, the
former home of the Boston Braves, was selected as the first home of the Boston Patriots. he organization's first training camp opened on July 4, 1960 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Approximately 350 players reported to the opening of camp, including a large
contingent from Boston College. This group would be trimmed to 35 for the start of the regular season. The team's first preseason game was held on July 30 and the Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 28-7 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. Patriots defensive end Bob Dee recovered a
fumble during the game and scored the AFL's first touchdown. The first "home" game was held two weeks later before 11,000 fans at Harvard Stadium and the Patriots lost 24-14 to the Dallas Texans. The team's regular season home opener came on Sept. 9 and 21,597 fans at Nickerson
field watched the team lose to the Denver Broncos 13-10.
The 1963 season saw the Patriots move to Fenway Park for home games, where they claimed their first division crown with a 7-6-1 record. The team lost the AFL title game, 51-10, to the San Diego Chargers. They did play in
AFL championship game, following the
1963 season and lost to the San Diego Chargers 51–10. In 1963, eleven Patriots made the AFL All-star team, including Gino Cappelletti, Nick
Buoniconti, and Babe Parilli. A number of other Patriots players emerged as stars in the AFL during the 1960s, including defensive linemen Houston Antwine, Bob Dee, Larry Eisenhauer and Jim Lee Hunt and center Jon Morris In the late 1960's, fullback Jim Nance became a
powerful offensive weapon for the Patriots, gaining 1,458 yards in 1966 and 1,216 in 1967, when he was the American Football League's
Most Valuable Player.
When the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, the Patriots were placed
in the AFC East division, where they
still play today. The Patriots' time in the AFL saw them struggle most years as they never had a regular home stadium.
Nickerson Field (1960-1962), Harvard Stadium (1970),
Fenway Park (1963-1968), and Boston College's Alumni Stadium (1969) all served as home fields during their time in the American Football League. In 1971, the Patriots moved to a
new stadium in
Foxborough, Mass, which would serve as their home for 30 years. As a result of the move, they
announced they would change their name from the Boston Patriots to the Bay State Patriots. The name was rejected by the NFL and on March 23, 1971, the team officially announced they would become the New England Patriots. On Aug. 15, 1971, the Patriots played their first game at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, defeating the New York Giants 20-14 before a crowd of 60,423 in a preseason contest.
NICK BUONICONTI (1962-1968) ... Nick played linebacker for the Patriots from and was voted an American Football League All-Star five times, including 1966 when he was the top vote getter. The Springfield, MA native
took night classes during the season at Suffolk University and received his law degree in 1968. In 1970, Buoniconti was named to the All-AFL team, commemorating the best players in that league’s history. Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson said of Buoniconti, "if you are lucky
enough to knock him down, you have to lay on him or he'll get right back into the play." In 1992, Buoniconti was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame and in 2001 he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
JIM NANCE (1965-1971) ... Nance played for the Patriots for seven seasons, appearing in 94 games. His 45 rushing touchdowns are a franchise
record, while his 5,323 rushing yards place second in team history. He was the American Football League's Most Valuable Player in 1966, leading the league with 1,458 rushing yards - the highest single-season total in the AFL's 10-year history and a mark that stood as a Patriots
record for 20 years. Nance was the AFL's leading rusher again in 1967, totaling 1,216 yards. He was selected by the Patriots in the 19th round of the 1965 American Football League Draft out of Syracuse.