Having faced no team more often over the course of his four-year NFL career, former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Davon Godchaux knows quite a bit about the New England Patriots. His connections with the Patriots run deeper than the two annual meetings between the clubs, though.
Godchaux also has plenty of personal ties with the team that signed him to a two-year free agency contract earlier this month. From former coaches Brian Flores, Patrick Graham and Andre Carter, to New England legend Vince Wilfork, the 26-year-old has crossed paths with quite a few ex-Patriots during his time in the NFL — all of which left a positive impact on his development.
Flores, of course, was his head coach in Miami for the last two seasons. A long-time assistant in New England, who climbed the organizational ladder before eventually becoming the team’s primary defensive play caller during its 2018 Super Bowl season, Flores took over as the Dolphins’ head coach as Godchaux was entering his third season as a pro.
Flores brought championship pedigree to his new club, and a group of coaches also associated with the Patriots. Among them was Patrick Graham, hired to serve as defensive coordinator during the 2019 season.
Godchaux spoke highly about Graham, who spent seven seasons in New England.
“I love PG,” he said. “Pat is a great guy. Pat helped me a lot, helped me with things above football. When me and Pat talked to each other, [it was] maybe 10 percent football and 90 percent just talking about life, talking about a man’s responsibilities and things like that. How are his kids doing? How are my kids doing? It’s bigger than football, but Pat helped me a lot with my technique and things like that.”
Among other roles, Graham worked as linebackers and defensive line coach during his time in New England. He only spent one season with the Dolphins — he later left to become assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the New York Giants (under another ex-Patriot, Joe Judge) — but apparently had a positive impact on Godchaux’s career during their short time together.
The same can be said for Andre Carter. A former defensive end, Carter had two separate stints with the Patriots: he played 16 games for the club during his 2011 Pro Bowl season, and later returned for nine more games in 2013.
After ending his career, Carter turned to coaching — a profession that led him to Miami in 2017. Working as the team’s assistant defensive line coach, he was with the Dolphins during Godchaux’s first two seasons in the league.
It is no surprise that the former fifth-round draft pick reached out to Carter after joining the Patriots.
“Kid you not, I can call Andre right now!” said Godchaux during his introductory media conference call. “Andre told me that I would love this place. Andre told me simply I would love this place. He said it was a fit for me, and I will love it, and I will thrive in this scheme. ... He just told me I’d love this system, and I’m pretty sure he was right.”
While Carter had a productive two seasons in New England — he notched 12 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles — his stint with the club pales in comparison to that of Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork was a key cog along the Patriots’ defensive line for a decade and helped bring two Super Bowl titles to New England. Along the way, the former first-round draft pick appeared in a combined 179 regular season and playoff games as a Patriot, was voted to five Pro Bowls, and was named to the organization’s Teams of the 2000s and 2010s.
He also set the standard for nose tackle play in the NFL — a standard Godchaux is also trying to follow.
“Big Vince Wilfork, can’t take for granted what he has done for this program and what he has done for the NFL in general. He dominated the game at that position. So, hopefully God blessed me to do the same, to dominate this game at that position. He’s one of the guys that I looked up to when I talk about striking them with your hands and things like that. He dominated that”, he said about Wilfork.
“I actually got to spend some time with him in South Florida — I think he has a house in South Florida. When I was training down there I actually got to spend some time with him. If I need to reach out to him, I can reach out to him. I have his number. He’s kind of like a mentor to me if I need to reach out to him with some things in this position, which is nose tackle.”
After regularly crossing paths with the Patriots over the last four years, Godchaux’s will now take it one step further. Whether or not he will have the same type of impact on the Patriots defense as Wilfork during his tenure with the team remains to be seen, but his skillset is enticing and should help him fill the nose position New England struggled to properly man in 2020.