Earlier this week, the New England Patriots announced that former defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has been voted into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Wilfork spent 11 years with the team between 2004 and 2015, appeared in a combined 179 regular season and playoff games, and was a cornerstone of two Super Bowl-winning teams.
He is as deserving a candidate as any in recent memory, and him making the cut in the first year of eligibility was no surprise. Neither of the other finalists — Mike Vrabel and Logan Mankins — realistically stood any chance to beat “Big Vince” in a fan vote.
Following the announcement, the Patriots’ coaching staff also sang Wilfork’s praises.
“Vince exemplified all the things that define football greatness,” head coach Bill Belichick said in a statement released by the team. “Vince’s rare physical ability was obvious, but it was his professional approach to the game, his competitiveness, toughness and dedication to the team that set him, and several of his teams, apart. Vince Wilfork is an all-time great player.”
Belichick drafted Wilfork in the first round in 2004, and coached him throughout his legendary career — parts of which overlapped with other members of the Patriots’ coaching staff both on and off the field.
“Vince is a good friend. Obviously, a Hall of Fame player now,” former linebacker Jerod Mayo, who currently is coaching New England’s inside linebackers said about his ex-teammate. “You talk about a guy who could eat three blocks, like literally, and allow a young pup to come through and roam free. He was the guy.”
Fellow assistant coach Troy Brown echoed those remarks.
“Just one heck of a football player,” the wide receiver-turned-wide receivers coach said earlier this week. “I mean, he was athletic as heck for a guy his size, too. He could catch punts, do all that stuff, and ran well for a guy his size. Just an amazing athlete he was during that time. And you have to love Vince. Didn’t take any junk off anybody and really set the tone for that defense upfront.”
Before leaving the Patriots in 2015 to spend two more seasons with the Houston Texans, he had already established himself as one of the best players in franchise history. Matt Patricia, who will be working with the offensive line this year, was able to get a close look at him along the way: Patricia served as the club’s defensive coordinator during Wilfork’s final three seasons in New England.
He too spoke highly of him.
“Amazing, amazing individual. Great guy, great player. Super excited for him,” Patricia said.
Outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick also worked alongside Wilfork back in the day; he was a defensive assistant during his final three years in Foxborough. Just like Patricia, he saluted Wilfork not just for his on-field contributions.
“Great person off the field, love spending time with him,” Belichick said. “Learned a lot from him just in terms of defensive line play and just being a professional football player. He was a great leader in the locker room, brought a lot of guys together. Couldn’t be happier for Vince. Very deserving and very exciting.”
Even DeMarcus Covington, who arrived in New England after Wilfork’s departure, was full of praise for the 32nd Hall of Fame enshrinee.
“There is a teach tape here with the New England Patriots on how to play defensive line or defensive tackle, it’s going to have him on there,” Covington said. “He’s definitely a pillar in this defense. The legacy — he’s an example of what we want to be like on the football field.”
Wilfork ie expected to get inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame during training camp, but no details about the ceremony have been announced yet.