FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –The New England Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Bill Lenkaitis, who played 11 of his 14 seasons (1971-81) with the New England Patriots and also served as the team dentist for many years. Lenkaitis passed away at the age of 70 on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016.
A team captain at Penn State University, Lenkaitis was originally drafted in the second round of the 1968 AFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. He played his first three seasons with the Chargers before the Patriots acquired him off waivers in 1971. For the next 11 seasons (1971-81), he started 119 of 151 games for the Patriots, including all 16 games in 1978 when the Patriots won their first NFL division title with an 11-5 record and set an NFL rushing record with 3,165 yards – a record which still stands 38 years later.
"Bill centered one of the greatest offensive lines, not just in franchise history, but in NFL history," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "In 1976, he helped propel the Patriots to an 11-3 record and our first NFL playoff berth. Two years later, the offensive line powered the Patriots to our first NFL division title, while setting the NFL rushing record. As a season ticket holder during his playing days, I was a fan of the player he was on the field. But, in my 22 years of ownership, I became an even bigger fan of the person he was off the field. He was a big man with an even bigger personality and a huge heart. As a Patriots alumnus, he remained active in our communities and regularly volunteered to support out Foundation's many initiatives. He was a great Patriots ambassador and he will be missed. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and former teammates."
During his NFL offseasons, Lenkaitis earned his dental degree from the University of Tennessee and became the team dentist while he was still an active player. Following his career, he continued to serve as the team dentist for a number of years in addition to managing his own dental practice in Foxborough, Mass.