By: Ian Logue/
April 24, 2004

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FOXBORO, MA -- Bill Belichick has made it clear he prefers mature players who are mentally tough and buy into the team concept.

He drafted one on Saturday.

The Patriots selected Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork with their first selection in the first round (21st overall) on Saturday, and it was clear by the time Wilfork finally had a chance to speak to the New England media that the Miami standout was happy where he landed.

"I loved [being picked by the Patriots] because New England loves to win, they love to play the game and they know a lot about winning," Wilfork told the New England media in a conference call on Saturday. "[When it was announced I was a New England Patriot] I just fell in love right there."

The Patriots got themselves a player who has been through a lot in the past couple of years, including losing both of his parents in just a six-month span back in 2002. His father, David Sr., died of kidney disease on June 5, 2002, just one day before his mother's birthday. Wilfork later lost her on December 16th that year from complications of a stroke she suffered in November.

His father was just 48, his mother 46.

''I wasn't over my dad yet . . . and now my mom,'' Wilfork told the Miami Herald just days after his mother passed away. "This one really struck me. I enjoy every moment now, every moment I breathe, every game I play. As long as I don't break . . . I'll never break. You can trust me on that now. I might bend, but I'll regain my focus and bounce back."

"I will never break.''

He honors them both now with tattoos that say "Rest in Peace, Mom" and "Rest in Peace, Dad" on his massive arms.

According to USA TODAY another adage from his father can be read on the tattoos on the backs of his arms. On one is "One life." On the other, "to live."

He also wears a gold medallion that contains his parents' high school prom photo.

While they weren't there with him on Saturday when he found out the Patriots had selected him, he knew they were watching.

"I woke up thinking of them because this is the day I knew it was going to come after awhile and they knew it was going to come, especially my dad," said Wilfork. "He was a big football fanatic. By them not being with me physically that got to me a little bit, but I know in spirit they are here with me and they will always be here with me. So right now they are looking down on me and they are proud of their son."

As well they should be.

It's not unfamiliar for a young player when he's drafted in the first round to talk about buying a nice car or finding some other way to treat themselves with their new found wealth. Not Wilfork.

His immediate priority is simply buying a house for his wife Bianca and their two children here in New England.

"I already have a car," said Wilfork. "A house is my main concern right now. Getting familiar with the area and that is it."

In the meantime the Patriots seem to have found themselves a special player. With Ted Washington leaving to the Raiders via free agency, New England was in need of trying to bring in candidates to fill in up front on defense. At 6'1" 344-pounds Wilfork certainly has the physical attributes to compete for that role. Scouting reports have said he's able to play in a two-gap system, and the Sporting News said, "When fresh and playing with leverage, he is almost impossible to deal with in the running game because he can fight off double-teams, penetrate and make a play in the backfield."

Just the type of player New England could use. Now he's simply excited about getting started.

"Basically I can't wait to get up there and meet the team and meet the coaches and just have fun," said Wilfork.

"I am satisfied and I am happy with where I am at now."