Legendary New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick considers Vince Wilfork the best defensive lineman he has ever coached.
The 6’2″, 325-lb. Wilfork was a stonewall at nose tackle who helped New England win two Super Bowl titles in the 2004 and 2014 NFL seasons.
Wilfork was also a seven-time defensive team captain and de facto coach who helped Belichick prepare for games and address team needs during his 11-year tenure in New England.
Long story short, big Vince Wilfork was a first-rate defensive lineman and jack of all trades during the Patriots dynasty.
He definitely made his late parents David and Barbara proud.
Vincent Lamar Wilfork was born to parents David Sr. and Barbara in Boynton Beach, FL on November 4, 1981. He has an older brother named David Jr.
When Wilfork was just four years old, his dad told him that he would one day play in the National Football League.
Incredibly, David Wilfork’s premonition came true. Unfortunately, he and his wife never got to see their son play at football’s highest level, which eventually became one of the most painful regrets of Vince Wilfork’s gridiron career.
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) January 25, 2017
When Wilfork was in grade school, he began taking care of his father who was battling diabetes. He had to look after him while his friends played outside, per the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe.
According to the Portsmouth Herald’s Howard Ulman, Wilfork was around nine or ten years old when he began to have to carry his dad to the bathroom because he couldn’t walk.
He witnessed diabetes ravage his father’s body for the next twelve years. Wilfork saw his dad lose his eyesight, hearing, and sensation in his limbs and toes until he passed away in 2002.
Wilfork played basketball while he was growing up in Florida. In fact, he dunked for the first time on a fastbreak attempt when he was in seventh grade.
“I ended up dunking it,” Wilfork told ESPN 22 years later. “The neighborhood kids went insane.”
Wilfork attended Santaluces Community High School in Lantana, FL. He excelled in football, wrestling, and track for the Santaluces Chiefs.
Wilfork, who weighed 308 pounds in high school, could burn the asphalt on the track. He was told that he had “runner legs” in his youth.
Wilfork put his runner legs to good use at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2004. He told ESPN he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds that year.
Wilfork excelled most in the shot put as a member of the Santaluces High track team. His shot put throw of 68 feet broke the previous Florida state high school record.
Wilfork emerged as the state champion in the shot put and discus events in 2000.
He also played football for coach Ray Berger.
Despite facing constant double teams, Wilfork still racked up 88 tackles as a junior in 1999. He became one of Florida’s top three high school defensive linemen that year.
Wilfork had 72 tackles and 11.0 sacks for Santaluces High as a senior in 2000. He earned several accolades that year including USA TODAY Second-Team All-American and SuperPrep All-American honors.
According to the Miami Hurricanes’ official athletics website, the Florida Gators, the Florida State Seminoles, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Michigan Wolverines, and the Kansas State Wildcats recruited Wilfork as his high school football career wound down.
Vince Wilfork decided to remain in South Florida and commit to the Miami Hurricanes.
He joined a powerhouse Hurricanes squad that dominated college football at the turn of the 21st century.
College Days With The Miami Hurricanes
Vince Wilfork attended the University of Miami from 2001 to 2003. He played defensive lineman for Miami Hurricanes head football coach Larry Coker.
Wilfork joined a Hurricanes team that was loaded from top to bottom.
Miami’s lineup included future NFL stars Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow II, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, and Ed Reed.
Wilfork got his college football career off to a good start. His gargantuan 325-lb. frame allowed him to steamroll offensive linemen in the Hurricanes’ pass rush.
Consequently, he led all Miami freshmen with 41 tackles in 2001 despite playing as a reserve defensive tackle.
This powerhouse Hurricanes squad won all twelve of its games on its way to the Big East title in 2001.
Miami beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the 2001 Rose Bowl to win its fifth national title.
Vince Wilfork was a champion in his first year in the college football ranks. He continued savoring moments like these well into his 11-year NFL career with the New England Patriots.
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) August 24, 2019
Wilfork dealt with unspeakable personal tragedies during his sophomore season in Miami—he lost his parents David and Barbara within six months in 2002.
David Wilfork succumbed to kidney failure in June of that year. His wife passed away due to stroke-related complications six months later, per the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley.
They never got to see their son play a single down in the National Football League. To this day, it’s a lingering memory that brings tears to Wilfork’s eyes.
“My parents never got to see their son live out a dream,” Wilfork told Buckley in 2017. “Physically, it hurt every day. It hurt by the hour. Daily. Not a minute goes by.”
Wilfork became so distraught that he thought about quitting football after his parents passed away.
Fortunately, his mother convinced him to return for his junior season several months before she died. If Wilfork complied, he could earn his bachelor’s degree.
Wilfork followed his mother’s advice and returned for his junior season with the Hurricanes in 2003.
Despite Wilfork’s setbacks, his 43 tackles ranked 11th among Hurricanes defensive players despite coming off the bench as a sophomore.
Although Miami won 12 of 13 games, the top-seeded Hurricanes fell to the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, 31-24.
Wilfork started all 13 games for the Hurricanes as a junior in 2003. He racked up a career-high 64 tackles on his way to earning First-Team All-Big East honors that year.
Miami had an 11-2 win-loss record during Wilfork’s junior year. The Hurricanes beat their in-state rivals, the Florida State Seminoles, in the 2003 Orange Bowl, 16-14.
Wilfork finished his college football career on a high note. He decided to forego his senior season at Miami and declare for the 2004 NFL Draft.
Vince Wilfork eventually helped establish the New England Patriots dynasty when he entered the pro football ranks in 2004.
Pro Football Career
The New England Patriots made Vince Wilfork the 21st overall selection of the 2004 NFL Draft.
The Patriots never expected Wilfork to fall all the way to 21 on the draft board.
Team owner Robert Kraft recalled seeing how excited New England head coach Bill Belichick was when they had the opportunity to draft the big man from Miami.
Belichick, vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, and the Patriots scouts had interviewed Wilfork at the 2004 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Belichick told Boston.com’s Rachel Bowers that the 20-minute interview seemingly served no purpose since he felt Wilfork wouldn’t be around when the Patriots drafted 21st overall.
When Wilfork fell into the Patriots’ laps several months later, an elated Belichick considered the turn of events one of the most surprising of his NFL head coaching career.
On this day in 2004, the New England Patriots drafted Miami Hurricane and future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Vince Wilfork with the 21st overall pick in the NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/7ZYjyDROFt
— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) April 24, 2022
Wilfork made a profound impression on Kraft at the rookie photo shoot several days after the 2004 NFL Draft.
He wore a chain with a medallion that had pictures of his late parents David and Barbara on it.
Kraft felt a common bond with Wilfork because they married strong-willed women who helped them maintain their humility.
Kraft told Bowers in 2017 that his wife Myra became enamored with Wilfork because of his family values.
Vince Wilfork was always the last to leave the gridiron after a game during his 11-year tenure in New England. He always kissed both Myra and Robert Kraft before leaving the football field.
When Wilfork was a rookie, he didn’t like Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel because he was an old-school coach who treated the veterans differently.
Nonetheless, Wilfork took it all in stride.
“I didn’t pout about it,” he told Boston.com. “It p—-d me off, but at the same time it taught me you have to earn your keep at this level and that’s what I did.”
With Wilfork anchoring the Patriots’ defensive line, they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, 24-21. It was New England’s third Vince Lombardi Trophy.
As for Wilfork, he earned the first of his two Super Bowl rings as a rookie. It was a flashback to his freshman season with the Miami Hurricanes winning the national title just three years earlier.
— Wicked Boston (@WickedBoston_) April 27, 2022
Wilfork also displayed exceptional leadership skills as his career progressed with the Patriots. In fact, the team named him a defensive captain seven times in 11 years.
While other team captains were reluctant to discuss certain team issues with Belichick, Wilfork wasn’t— so they asked him to bring the issues up on their behalf.
Belichick told Bowers that he relied heavily on Wilfork for team needs, game preparation, and the team’s status during certain points of the season.
Wilfork also led by example in terms of his physical conditioning. Despite his gargantuan size, Belichick claimed he never fined him for not making the weigh-in. Wilfork also never missed a conditioning test.
“Yeah, I never missed a weigh-in,” Wilfork told Bowers. “But catch me 30 minutes later and it might be a different story.”
Vince Wilfork reached the pinnacle of his NFL career from 2007 to 2012. He earned five Pro Bowl and three Second-Team All-Pro selections as well as one First-Team All-Pro nod during that time frame.
New England won an average of 13 games per year and Wilfork became one of the league’s elite defensive linemen. Unfortunately, they never won a Super Bowl title from 2007 to 2012.
Wilfork returned the favor to Robert Kraft in 2010—he gave Kraft a chain and gold medallion with photos of Kraft and Myra.
Wilfork made the heartfelt gesture when Myra Kraft underwent chemotherapy that year. Her husband wore it for 11 months after she passed away in 2011.
Little did people know that Wilfork could also play wide receiver behind the scenes during his NFL career.
Wilfork played one-on-one scrimmage games against legendary wide receiver Randy Moss during their time together in New England from 2007 to 2010.
Moss played defensive back during their scrimmages. He tried to put the clamps on Wilfork, who liked to run a jerk route. He told ESPN several years later that he loved that route because it’s virtually impossible to defend.
Wilfork predicted the Patriots would win Super Bowl XLIX when he was in the sauna with 11 other teammates during OTAs in 2014.
In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, Wilfork pulled a 38-year-old woman out of an overturned Jeep Wrangler along Route 1 near Gillette Stadium.
Wilfork’s heroic act occurred in the aftermath of New England’s victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
Wilfork’s offseason prediction came after New England beat the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24.
In one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent memory, Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the game’s waning moments to seal New England’s fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Vince Wilfork began his Patriots career with a Super Bowl ring and ended it with another one.
New England declined its team option on Wilfork’s contract a month later. Consequently, he became a free agent.
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) December 21, 2016
Wilfork signed a two-year, $9 million deal with $5 million in guaranteed money with the Houston Texans on March 16, 2015.
The Texans won nine games and two division titles in each of Wilfork’s two seasons with the squad. Unfortunately, they never made it past the AFC Divisional Round.
Wilfork considers his last game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium one of the fondest memories of his NFL career.
“You had the Houston crowd, you had the New England crowd,” Wilfork told Bowers in 2017. “So I had everybody in one place to witness my last game. That’s pretty awesome.”
Vince Wilfork retired from the National Football League following the 2016 NFL season.
He finished his 13-year NFL career with 560 combined tackles, 16.0 sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles, and 12 fumble recoveries.
Wilfork signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Patriots organization in the summer of 2016.
Wilfork loved to swim during his playing days in the National Football League—it was a great way to train the entire body and build endurance.
Wilfork also loved to train in the sandpit and orange groves on his property in Florida. He drove a tractor and baled hay around the property as a form of cross-training, per ESPN.
Wilfork took pride in his role as a defensive lineman on the gridiron for 13 seasons.
“It’s unfair for big guys, because it’s harder for us to get noticed because we do the dirty work,” Wilfork told ESPN in the summer of 2016. “If you don’t have guys up there doing what they have to do, nothing will work.”
Wilfork was also proud of his durability in the pro football ranks. He missed just one season and had just one major injury in his pro football career—a feat that was unheard of for a nose tackle who anchored the defensive line.
After 13 NFL seasons, two-time SB champ Vince Wilfork is calling it a career.
Wait for it… 🤣
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) August 7, 2017
Because of Vince Wilfork’s impressive work in the trenches for the New England Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick dubbed him “the best defensive lineman I have ever coached,” per the Boston Herald.
Belichick attributed that to Wilfork’s imposing physique that made it nearly impossible for offensive linemen to block him in the running game. He also held his own in the passing game during his memorable NFL career.
Vince Wilfork and the former Bianca Farinas married in 2004. They divorced 17 years later. The couple has two sons named D’Aundre and David and a daughter, Destiny.
Wilfork currently splits his time between Houston, Texas and Florida.
Wilfork posed for ESPN’s Body Issue in the summer of 2016. The 6’2″, 325-lb. behemoth appeared fully naked in the shoot.
He hoped that his photos would help boost the confidence of big-boned people.
“I think this shoot will give people a different look at what I am,” Wilfork told ESPN’s Morty Ain in the summer of 2016.
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) June 29, 2016
Wilfork felt the shoot would help people notice his muscular body parts such as his shoulders, biceps, and calves. He admitted he was big around the middle but wasn’t too concerned about not having a six-pack.
Wilfork hates when people stop to gawk at his imposing physique. When they ask if he’s an athlete, he tells them he’s a gynecologist.
Wilfork told Ain he considers himself a gentle giant off the gridiron. He’s an outdoorsman who loves gardening, fishing, and playing golf.
Galveston, TX police charged Wilfork’s 23-year-old son D’Aundre Holmes-Wilfork with theft in the spring of 2021 after he allegedly stole more than $300,000 worth of his dad’s jewelry, including his two Super Bowl rings.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Wilfork could not find his two Super Bowl rings, two AFC title rings, a national title ring from his time with the Miami Hurricanes, and other jewelry in the days leading up to his son’s arrest.
Wilfork received an email from a Patriots fan who said that he saw his two Super Bowl rings were up for auction in a memorabilia group. Wilfork promptly called authorities who, in turn, filed a police report.
Galveston police reached out to the person who posted the rings in the group. He told them he bought the rings from Wilfork’s son for $62,000 in 2020. Wilfork’s other jewelry was also sold that year for $4,600.
Wilfork missed one of the most important calls of his life one morning in the spring of 2022.
The call was from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Wilfork called him back and found out he had officially become a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“Being able to wake up to that beautiful music,” Wilfork told the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan in May 2022. “That beautiful news of being selected in the Patriots Hall of Fame, it means the world to me.”
Vince Wilfork New England Patriots Hall of Fame pic.twitter.com/joybFlKWJd
— Patriots Fans Costa Rica (@alepowan) May 17, 2022
Wilfork became just the sixth player to become a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility.
Wilfork started the Vince Wilfork Foundation to help support research and promote awareness of diabetes. The foundation also aims to support all non-profit organizations and assist disadvantaged children.