PATRIOTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE VINCE WILFORK
MAY 17, 2022
Q: How are you doing?
VW: I'm doing good, it was pretty cool to wake up with some beautiful news of me making the Patriots Hall of Fame so, I'm doing well I cannot complain at all.
Q: Where were you when you found out and how did you find out?
VW: Well, I was actually getting up -- I'm up in Louisiana -- and I had a missed call from a 508 number, and I called it back and it was Mr. Kraft's assistant and she merged me in with him and Mr. Kraft was the first one to let me know that I made the Patriots Hall of Fame this morning. So, we spoke for probably like 10 minutes just catching up over old times and just letting him know what the organization and the Kraft family and New England and everyone, the fans, what they mean to me as a person. And I told him how grateful I was to be a part of such a wonderful culture and brotherhood in Boston. So, you know I'm a Celtics fan, I've been glued to the TV watching the Celtics so, I'm pulling for those guys. You know, it was me just paying homage to the things I've accomplished with the help of the organization and the great fanbase of New England.
Q: When you got the missed call from the 508 area code, did you have any idea what was coming?
VW: You know what, I had totally forgot because my brother's birthday was yesterday, and Stacey told me that May 16 would be the last day and we'll announce May 17th so I really wasn't even thinking about it. But when I saw 508 I'm like 'Ok 508, must be something I need to talk to somebody about.' And when I got on the phone when she told me it's the New England Patriots, I said 'Ok. I know what it's about now.' So, like I said it was just-- being able to wake up to beautiful news-- that beautiful news of being selected into the Patriots Hall of Fame, it means the world to me. Means the world to me.
Q: A lot of people break the last 20-or-so years of Patriots football into the first dynasty and the second dynasty: the two different trios of wins. You're one of only two players that has a ring from each of those two periods. What does that mean to you to be the bridge between those two eras?
VW: Honestly, it just goes to show you the credit that goes to Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization and Bill Belichick and staff. Being able to do what they've done for two decades -- I don't think we'll ever see that again at this level. I remember talking to Devin McCourty when he came in and he used to call me old. And now when I talk to him, now he's the old guy. All my teammates have been great. I never had any issues with anybody. We all had one goal in mind, and that was to be the best we possibly can be, and win. And it was easy for guys to come in and kind of fall in order. So for me to be part of the first great dynasty with the old heads, you know the Mike Vrabels, the Richard Seymours, Tom Brady, Corey Dillon, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Ty Warren. And then all of the sudden you have the Hightowers, the Mayos, the Devin McCourtys. Now you have that and the Gronks, the Edelmans, you know, it's a blessing. I can really sit back and say it's a lot of things I've learned from the old heads when I came in, and I can really say it's a lot of things that the younger guys when I became a little older, they learned from me. And when I watch them play, I see a lot of stuff that we-- basically would build a foundation of the New England Patriots. And that started with the guys before me there, that started the trends of the Super Bowl runs, the competitiveness.
And like I said, a lot of credit goes to Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, the organization because Mr. Kraft trusted Bill to put a championship-quality team together. He trusted Bill to do that. And Bill being Bill, he knew what it feels like, he knew what it looks like, he knew what he needed to do. So a lot of credit goes to those guys. Players, we play, but the coaching staff and the fans, and the organization -- to be surrounded by great people in a great sports town, it helps tremendously. People don't get that. A lot of these states don't get what Boston has with all professional sports. And the one thing I really love about it is the fans. The fanbase that we have in Boston -- you can't compare. You got a couple places out there that might have multiple professional sports teams that are championship-quality and been there in the past, but it's something about being a New England guy, being a fan, and playing sports, because one thing I know is the fans love their sports and their athletes. And as athletes, we love to embrace that. So a lot of credit goes to the fans as well. I love the fans, I've never played in a stadium with the type of fans that we had. And that's a credit to the fans.
Q: When you retired, Coach Belichick called you and Richard Seymour the two best defensive linemen he's ever coached. I'm just wondering, when you think about that statement, how much does that mean to you
VW: Well, first of all, it's coming from the GOAT and you're talking about a guy that has coached some great players in his coaching career -- been around some greats. So when something like that comes out of his mouth, you have to be able to soak it in and just kind of smile, because he had the opportunity to coach a lot of great football players, and just to be on his radar, it brings a smile to my face, because all I've wanted to do was play football -- the game I love -- and be the best teammate I possibly could be. And whatever comes with that comes with it. But, to get that from Bill Belichick, that's special. It will always be special, because I know what my coach -- what he thought of me, how he felt towards me. And Bill is one of those guys who will tell you the truth. He's not gonna sugarcoat nothing. So if I sucked, he would tell me I sucked. If you're great, he's not gonna tell you you're great at the moment, but just to hear, once I retired, how he felt about me -- that was special to me, I'm gonna always cherish that.
Q: What was your reaction to this-- what does it mean to you? To have this come full circle?
VW: I remember playing and later in my career, you know, I had teammates I played with and they would tell me like, 'Man, you're a hall-of-famer, I'm playing with a hall-of-famer.' But honestly, I can sit here and tell you, Hall of Fame never drove me to be the best that I can. I never once thought about the Hall of Fame when I started playing football, and I never once though about a hall of fame when I finished. That was just never on my radar because I love football, my passion was football, so anything else that comes with it comes with it. But I'm not one of those players that says 'One of my goals is to be a Hall of Famer.' No, my goal is to be the best teammate I could be, win a championship, and win a football game, that's it. So, now it's full circle, now I'm done, and now I can sit back and now I can say 'ok, I'm a Patriots Hall of Famer' I see what it means now, (more) than when I played. When I played, I never once thought about it, I was just saying 'what can I do to make my team better and what can I do to win football games-- how can I train, what I need to work on, what I need to fix, what I need to be better at.' So now that I'm retired and now that it's right in my lap, it's like now I can sit back and just think about everything I've done, my career, the people that I've helped, the people that helped me. I can kind of put it all in a bowl and just say 'you know what? I've accomplished something that many players probably want to have in their career.' And I'm blessed to be in a position to do that because, for one, it was hard work. I never put anything before my teammates, and being the best that I possibly could be. I ate football, I slept football, I did everything football. The love of football-- that was my first love: football. So, I'm just honored that now I can sit back and now all the words that ex-teammates used to tell me while I was playing: what I was gonna be, and how they looked at me in that moment -- I just sit back and try to understand what they were looking at in that moment. And it's just an amazing feeling. It's an honor to be regarded as one of the best that's ever done it for the Patriots. I love it. That's all I wanted-- I just wanted to be the best player I possibly could be I wanted to be the best defensive lineman I could possibly be for the New England Patriots. Whatever happens after that happens, you know?
Q: Is this going to be the first Patriots HOF Induction ceremony with overalls? I think that's what fans are curious about.
VW: I don't know about that, but I'll keep it in the back of my mind. One thing I've always loved was the fans. I love Boston fans, I mean, they are like family. Everywhere i went, my family went, it was fans everywhere and there was nothing but respect. Even when I played in Houston, it was totally different. There's nothing like New England Patriots fans. I'm here to tell you that, and I love them. But, those overalls, I don't know-- maybe I'll get some special ones for the occasion but, we never know, we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: You obviously had so many great plays in your career, but was there one specific play with the Patriots that stood out amongst all of them that was your favorite play personally?
VW: I'd say the playoff game against Baltimore. The plays back-to-back. I think that's one of the ones that I probably would say go down as my favorite just because of who we were playing, what was at stake, where we were in the game -- we needed plays. I always go back on those two plays -- 3rd and 4th down plays that I made back-to-back [inaudible]. I remember the night before, I was reading Jack Tatum's book and I was just in awe of how people were afraid of him, and what his mindset was, and how he approached every game. And that just gave me something -- I had a totally different mindset in that moment. And a lot of times, being an interior defensive lineman, you know, nose tackle, you don't get a chance to steal spotlight. Because we do the dirty work, we're the afterthought. We're the ones getting up last off a pile at the bottom, we're taking the doubles, we're taking the triples. So, to have a moment where I made those plays for my team, it was special to me just because I've always looked at it like man, here I am an interior guy, and I can make the plays that I make and I believe I was probably one of the best two-gap nose tackles that ever played the game, and I'll put it against anyone. I played from left to right from defense, I played a five, four, three, two, one on both sides. You don't have any noses doing that. When you find one, you can let me know. So I've always regarded myself as one of the best defensive tackles, the best nose tackle, that ever played 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. 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. You could 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. So, I've always, like I said, I'm one of the best nose tackles that has ever played the game up until this point. So, like I said, we can leave it up for debate but that's just what it is, and until you find a nose tackle that can play the positions that I played, let me know. And we can talk.
Q: Is there one game that stands out, that you feel like defines your Patriots career?
VW: No, because I've had plenty of games in my career as a New England Patriot where I could pull up film and find something there. So, like I said, the play that I love is the Baltimore playoff game. Those two plays back-to-back. I remember playing Pittsburgh at home where I sacked Ben Roethlisberger. I sacked him before he could get out of his place and get a play-action pass. And I loved that play because I just knew the down and distance, I knew where we were on the field, I knew from the receivers, I mean I knew everything. And I was like 'it's gonna be a play-action pass, this balls gonna fly down to me, I'm gonna spin and I'm gonna be right in Ben's lap. And it worked out exactly the way I thought it would work out. I mean, before he could even turn around, it was like a blitz from a linebacker that's untouched. And I loved that play just because of what all went into it for me, to know what was happening before snap. So, it was all about preparation for me, and trusting my film sessions, and trusting what the offense is giving me, and the split of the receivers, and where the tight ends were, the backfield-- so, a lot went in for me on that play. And like I said, I'm a nose tackle, so things like that don't happen, you know, people don't think the way I thought, they don't prepare the way I prepared -- I knew that. I knew I was gonna always make it harder for anybody that's getting drafted to come in and try to take my position or anybody that's on the opposing team, like I would put in the work, because I was gonna steel a play. And that was my mind set every game, my goal was to steal a play each game and sometimes it was trusting my instincts, sometimes it was film studies and taking a look at the small details in certain things, sometimes it was listening to what was going on on the line of scrimmage. There's a lot that went into making plays and the plays that I made. It wasn't a guess. And Bill Belichick will tell you straight up, you're not going to guess in this game. You have to be, basically, certain that it's gonna happen. And I had the balls to trust myself because I knew I put all the work in, so I wasn't always right, but I was more right than wrong, I'll tell you that.
VW: I just wanted to tell all of you guys I appreciate you guys. My whole career of being able to cover me, being able to share some laughs, being serious. Not only do I thank the fans, I thank the media base for you guys and I definitely thank Stacey for keeping things always in order for us. You guys played a pivotal role in my career as well. It was sometimes where I didn't want to talk, but I had to and you guys were always respectful and you always made things a lot easier for me and I can speak on my teammates behalf as well, you guys made it a lot easier for us as players to be covered by you guys. So, I wanted to say thank you to all of you guys that covered me, and like I said, you are family. We are all family and I'm just happy to be a part of a great dynasty, part of a great organization, and definitely a part of a great New England area, with all sports. So, I wanna say thank you from the bottom of my heart, guys.