Vince Wilfork was a force when he wore a New England Patriots jersey, and the defensive lineman signed a one-day deal to retire as a member of the team. The former Patriots and Houston Texans defensive lineman is finally stepping away from the NFL after 13 seasons.
“I’m finally calling it quits from a game that I truly, truly, truly love, a game that I was committed to, a game that I was dedicated to, a game that I gave all to,” the former Patriots and Texans defensive tackle said Wednesday after a news conference in New England to confirm his long-rumored retirement.
“For 20 years I’ve been on a schedule,” he said. “I just want to relax. I just want to do something I haven’t had a chance to do in 20 years,” via the Associated Press.
During his NFL career, Wilfork played in all but 19 games and accumulated 559 tackles, four forced fumbles, 16 sacks and three interceptions. While that might not seem like much for a lineman, he was a player that was consistently in the backfield and could stop the run with his big frame.
“There wasn’t a matchup that I thought I couldn’t win,” he said. “I was a true champion. I believed I was the baddest person that’s on the field at all times, and that’s how I handled my business. That’s what kept me driving,” he told the AP.
There will be much debate about whether Wilfork is a Hall of Fame player, but one thing that cannot be argued is how much effort he put forth . His effort and work ethic were always present on the field, and even opponents knew what they would be facing. It didn’t make the preparation or game plan any easier, but that was what it was like to be on the opposite side of the brute force that was Vince Wilfork.
On the day of his new Patriots’ contract and retirement, there were plenty of former teammates chiding Wilfork as he celebrated his new freedom.
“It’s a sad day when the big fella hangs them up,” Julian Edelman said Tuesday. “I mean, he’s a flat-out stud and he’s going to be missed, but I think we should celebrate the kind of career he had. He was arguably one of the best — he’s the best I’ve seen,” via the AP.
The fact that quarterback Tom Brady only had to face Wilfork on the other side of the ball once in a game is something that the QB will likely embrace for the rest of his time in the NFL.
But Wilfork was very happy that his final NFL game was as a Houston Texans player versus the team that he was able to retire as a member of — the New England Patriots. And the chances of that happening again for any other player are slim, but he told the AP that it felt special.
“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or what, but I’m happy I got to play and end my career on the field I started on,” he said, noting that both the New England and Houston fans were able to watch his finale. “I had everybody in one place to witness my last game. That’s pretty awesome.”