Seeing Vince Wilfork emerge as this year’s New England Patriots Hall of Fame inductee is a fitting end to quite a story for the former defensive tackle.
Wilfork, who spent 11 seasons with the team, overcame a lot on his way to the NFL. His story is definitely a good one, and it goes all the way back to the day he was drafted.
The former standout from Miami was just a college player with a young family and was coming off of losing both his parents just two years prior to when he was drafted, with his father passing away from Kidney disease on June 5, 2002, one day before his mother’s birthday. He would lose her later that year after she passed away in December following complications from a stroke she suffered the month before.
They were both incredibly young. His dad was just 48, while his mother was only 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.”
Wilfork has two tattoos to remember them. “Rest in Peace, Mom”, reads one, and “Rest in Peace, Dad” reads the other.
He added two others, which came from an adage from his father. On one is “One life.” On the other, “to live.”
While they weren’t with him the day his NFL life started, Wilfork knew they were watching.
“I woke up thinking of them because this is the day I knew it was going to come after a while and they knew it was going to come, especially my dad,” said Wilfork at the time. “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.”
Those trials and tribulations didn’t go unnoticed by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who talked about it after selecting him.
“I thought it was obviously a tough situation,” said Belichick. “Let’s put it this way … He missed very little time given all that he went through. Football is very important to him. He worked through a tough situation to still do all he could for the team. I think that speaks a little bit to his commitment to the team. I think that he did what unfortunately anybody would have to in that situation. That forced him to grow up in a hurry.”
But after being drafted, Wilfork was already immediately focused on what he needed to do. The first thing on his mind was simply taking care of his family. With a move to New England now ahead for Bianca and his two young children, the only thing that mattered was making sure they were taken care of.
“I already have a car,” said Wilfork. “A house is my main concern right now. Getting familiar with the area and that is it.”
His start certainly tells you plenty about the player we watched during his time with the Patriots and the fact he’s being honored now certainly caps off what has definitely been one of the best stories and careers we’ve seen over the last 20-years+.
Belichick called both Wilfork and his former teammate, Richard Seymour, two of the best defensive linemen he’s ever coached, which is something that Wilfork didn’t take lightly, especially from someone who he has so much respect for.
“Well, first of all, it’s coming from the GOAT and you’re talking about a guy that has coached some great players in his coaching career — been around some greats,” said Wilfork in a conference call on Tuesday. “So when something like that comes out of his mouth, you have to be able to soak it in and just kind of smile, because he had the opportunity to coach a lot of great football players, and just to be on his radar, it brings a smile to my face, because all I’ve wanted to do was play football — the game I love — and be the best teammate I possibly could be. And whatever comes with that comes with it.”
“But, to get that from Bill Belichick, that’s special. It will always be special, because I know what my coach — what he thought of me, how he felt towards me. And Bill is one of those guys who will tell you the truth. He’s not gonna sugarcoat nothing. So if I sucked, he would tell me I sucked. If you’re great, he’s not gonna tell you you’re great at the moment, but just to hear, once I retired, how he felt about me — that was special to me, I’m gonna always cherish that.”
Congratulations to Wilfork and his family, who will see that enshrinement made official later this fall, although the date hasn’t yet been determined.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Portions of the above appeared in thie morning’s news/notes column.)
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Offseason
Tags: New England Patriots Vince Wilfork