After 13 NFL seasons, former Patriots and Texans Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork decided to retire. He did it in style, using a commercial for Kingsford Charcoal while wearing nothing but denim overalls that could probably make 30 pairs of regular sized jeans, and a hat that said “Ribs” on the front. He made his big announcement, and also professed his love of smoked meats. But beyond the affable big man who has been the butt of many fat jokes over his career, lies a true force that deserves consideration, and possibly induction, into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Wilfork was drafted in the 1st round of the 2004 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. The former University of Miami product was highly regarded out of college, being ranked 2nd among defensive tackles, behind only Tommie Harris, who would go on to have a nice career primarily with the Chicago Bears. Wilfork would prove to be the better player, and I would argue is worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Over the course of his career, the 325-pound Wilfork was a disruptive presence on the defensive line. He was a 5x Pro Bowler, an All-Pro, and a 2x Super Bowl Champion. Those accolades are a good indicator of the talent that he was, but accolades and statistics will not tell the entire story. Wilfork was also the best run-stopper in the game. He blew up running plays routinely, and opposing offenses had to double-team the big man just to have a chance at running the ball effectively. But even double-teams could not stop him from doing his job. He would still break them and make plays, and even when he didn’t, he was still being a highly effective Nose Tackle.
A Nose Tackle in a 3-4 defense is never going to lead the team in sacks or tackles, but one of their biggest objectives is taking up blockers on run plays that will let the linebackers roam free. Wilfork did that better than anyone, and he still made a lot of plays himself. He routinely put up seasons of 50+ tackles, which is impressive for any lineman. He was not just some fat oaf who they plugged in the middle to take up blocks, he was a massive man who could drive back other massive men and disrupt an offense. No one is ever going to accuse Vince Wilfork of being a sculpted individual, but he was a very strong and athletic player who is deserving of great respect. He did what he was supposed to do every season, and he was more effective at it than any other true Nose Tackle during his time.
If you are the best at your position for all or most of your playing career, then you should at the very least be under consideration for the Hall of Fame. Vince Wilfork was the best during his career, and one of the best in the history of the game. He is deserving of a very large gold jacket, and I hope to see him give his speech in Canton one day. I’m a Giants fan and I’m still vying for the big man, that’s how good of a player he was.