Del Wilkes, Formerly WWF’s ‘The Patriot’ And South Carolina Football Alum Has Died

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Known to wrestling fans as “The Patriot,” Del Wilkes passed away Thursday morning at the age of 59 following a massive heart attack. Outside of the ring, Wilkes had a storied career for the University of South Carolina football team, becoming just one of four Gamecocks to earn consensus All-American honors. George Rogers, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney were the others. Social Media tributes have been pouring in from around the South Carolina and wrestling communities.

After a failed attempt to make an NFL roster, Wilkes set his sights on becoming a professional wrestler, and he succeeded. He quickly gained a loyal fan base who appreciated the wrestler’s decision to carry an American flag with him to the ring, while decked out in a wardrobe full of stars and stripes.

Wilkes would go on to spend time in the WWF, WCW and Japan before a triceps injury forced him to retire. The WWE acknowledged his passing via Twitter and released an accompanying statement saying in part: “A Superstar quickly on the rise, The Patriot proudly donned the red, white and blue of America in the midst of a rivalry with The Hart Foundation, leading to a memorable match against Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at In Your House: Ground Zero just two months after his WWE debut.”

After leaving the ring, Wilkes spent the last 16 years working at a car dealership in his native Columbia, South Carolina.


Written by Anthony Farris

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