Mosi Tatupu, Longtime NFL Fullback, Passes Away at Age 54

David CotignolaContributor IIMarch 6, 2010

On February 3rd, 2010, the NFL lost one of it's true "good men" when Mosi Tatutpu passed away at age 54.  

Mosi was born in American Samoa, but went to high school in Hawaii.  Upon his graduation in 1974, he enrolled in the University of Southern California.  

During his four-year term at school, USC won the National Championship in 1974, and won two Rose Bowls.  Used as a fullback to lead the way for running backs Anthony Davis (College Football Hall of Fame, played in the WFL, USFL, CFL, and NFL); Ricky Bell (the  No. 1 overall pick in '77, runner up to Tony Dorsett in the Heisman, passed away due to heart failure in '83); and Charles White (1st round pick in 1980, led league in rushing in 1987, later coached RBs at USC for 4 years).  

Tackling Mosi was compared to tackling a Coke machine, and he was a favorite of fans, players, and coaches.

Mosi was drafted in the 8th round of the 1978 draft by the New England Patriots.  Used as a blocking fullback and special teams ace, Mosi showed his talent for running when given the chance, including his best rushing season where he gained 578 yards on 106 carries, for an NFL leading 5.6 yards per carry in 1983.  In 1984, he also topped 500 yards with better than 5 yards a carry.

Mosi proved very versatile over his career with New England, whether it was acting as the team's primary running back in a snow covered field vs New Orleans in '83, where he had 128 yards rushing; or when he threw his first pass in 1987 against the Raiders, a 15 yard touchdown.  His special teams play was just as significant, and he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in '86 because of it.

Mosi played for the Patriots from 1978-1990, never missing a game due to injury until 1989.  In his last season in the NFL, Mosi went to play for the Rams under his old USC coach John Robinson, but saw limited action and retired at 36, a remarkable age for a fullback in the NFL.  

Mosi's career stats were typical for a blocking fullback: 2,415 yards rushing, 18 TDs, 843 yards receiving with 2 TDS; however it was his impact on his teammates and coaches that will be how Mosi is remembered.  When asked about Mosi, teammates like Hall of Famer Andre Tippet said," You probably couldn't ask for a better teammate than Mosi.  He had a special connection with the fans and his teammates.  Everybody loved him."  Other teammates were just as eager to talk about Mosi and also expressed similar sentiments about Mosi the man, not Mosi the fullback.  

Mosi went into coaching after football, becoming the Head Coach at King Philip Regional High School in Mass., before becoming the running backs coach at Curry College from 2002-2007.

Mosi's legacy lives on in his son, Lofa, an All-Pro linebacker for the Seahawks.  Lofa was drafted in 2005 and went to the Pro Bowl his first three seasons in the league before injuries limited his playing time in 2008, resulting in him being passed over for the Pro Bowl, even though he became the only Seahawks player to lead the team in tackles 4 straight years.  

In 2009, he tore a pectoral muscle and landed on injured reserve.  Lofa will be healthy before camps this year, and there is little doubt he will regain his form as the force of the Seahawks linebacking corps next season.  

Former Patriots center Stan Brock summed it up best when he said, "It's really a shock and it's so much tougher because we played before the era of free agency, so you really got to know everybody. We were a community. We raised our children together. Because of that it's just like losing a family member."