Vince Wilfork’s 11-year career with the New England Patriots was an impressive one. A former first-round draft pick in 2004, he appeared in a combined 179 regular season and playoff games for the club and played an important role on two Super Bowls-winning teams.
Along the way, he garnered Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and was voted to the Patriots’ all-decade teams of both the 2000s and the 2010s. He also was named a member of the organization’s 50th anniversary squad.
Now, he will be able to add another accolade to his collection: the title of “Patriots Hall of Famer.”
Wilfork was announced as this year’s inductee on Tuesday after he beat out former teammates Mike Vrabel and Logan Mankins in a fan vote. Wilfork’s charismatic persona and status as a team captain and fan favorite obviously played a major role in this result, but so did his performances on the field.
Wilfork was a consistent presence at the heart of the New England defensive for more than a decade, and a handful for every offensive lineman he faced. In fact, he was one of the best nose tackles the NFL has ever seen — at least according to the man himself.
“I believe I was probably one of the best true two-gap nose tackles that ever played the game, and I would put that against anyone,” Wilfork told reporters on Tuesday. “I played from left to right. I played five, four, three, two, one [techniques] on both sides. You don’t have any noses doing that, and when you can find one, you can let me know.
“I’ve always regarded myself as one of the best defensive tackles and the best nose tackle to ever play the game. And people can fight me on it. People can have their opinions on it. But I’m just telling you where I stand, because I was that one guy that can go from left to right defensive end and anywhere in the middle. So, I was a nightmare for offenses trying to figure out where I’m going to be, and all that credit goes to Bill Belichick.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick brought Wilfork aboard as the 21st overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, and it was under his tutelage that he became one of the NFL’s top defenders.
Belichick finding ways to create favorable matchups obviously mattered, but so did Wilfork’s immense talent — talent that allowed the big-bodied defensive tackle to help the Patriots in any way he could. Oftentimes that meant lining up all over the formation.
“That’s totally Bill trusting me enough to be able to learn those positions and not only play those positions, but play them at a high level,” he said. “You can throw anybody out there and try something, but I played those positions at a very high level. So, it’s not like he was just putting me out there just because we didn’t have extra bodies or anything. No, he put me out there because he knew that I was capable of doing what I needed to do out there.
“Like I said, I’m one of the best nose tackles that ever played the game up until this point. We can leave it up for debate, but that’s just what it is. Until you find a nose tackle that can play the positions that I played, let me know, and we can talk.”
While no details about his enshrinement ceremony have been announced just yet, the event will likely take place in training camp.