Patriots: Wilfork receives Pats’ Hall of Fame jacket, reflects on career ahead of induction on Saturday

FOXBOROUGH – Around 1:20 on Thursday, Vince Wilfork walked into a small little library-like room inside The Hall at Patriots Place in a green t-shirt with some of his family close by.

Wilfork was presented his red Patriots HOF jacket, slipped it on and made sure it fit just right. It did, and he officially kicked off his Hall of Fame induction weekend meeting with the media and then taking a quick tour of some of the things on display reflecting on his stellar career.

Wilfork seemed to be most enthralled with the giant wall of names and numbers inside The Hall, where his last name and No. 75 sit at the top of the upside down pyramid, right next to Richard Seymour’s No. 93.

“I made the wall,” Wilfork proclaimed with a huge smile. “At the top, right behind Seymour.”

Wilfork was then invited to check out an interactive display that featured some of the biggest moments of his career with the legend Gil Santos on most of the calls throughout the highlight package. After watching the two or three minute video, Wilfork reiterated what this weekend means to not only him, but the entire organization.

“This means a lot, you have no idea,” he told the seemingly dozens of camera crews and media members on hand. “Never once when I played I thought about being where I’m at, honestly. I just love football. That’s how I approached every day. Being the best teammate I could possibly be and be consistent. I had a lot of guys depending on me, so hopefully I made them proud.

“This weekend is for everybody I played with, for my fans and the coaches…this weekend is for all of us, not just me. It took a lot of us to get done what we needed to get done.”

During his time with the media, Wilfork talked about a number of things, most notably, the way the region embraced him and continues to do so to this day.

“This is my first time back in over 10 years and when I landed, me and my fiancé, it was like I never left,” he said. “Walking on the street at night, just to get a breeze and it’s dark, and I’m half of the man I was when I played, I’m a little smaller…I have a jacket on and I’m walking and you hear people screaming. I’m like ‘how the heck do they know that’s me?’ it’s dark. Everywhere we went and every place we went to eat, passing people…it’s just the excitement that the community and the people, how they get when they see me.

“It’s like I never left, that’s love. That’s home. Boston is always home to me and always will be home to me. I love being here because everyone makes me feel like I never left and I am a Bostonian. At the end of the day, no matter where I am, I’m a Boston guy.”

Fittingly, one of Wilfork’s favorite games in his career was the 2011 AFC Championship against Baltimore when he was an absolute force. The night before, there was a certain book that set the tone for his performance.

“I can just remember that night, I think I went to bed around two o’clock that night because I was reading ‘Assassin’ Jack Tatum’s book, and his mindset, the mindset he had when he took the field, I was like, ‘this is me, I’m going to play today like I don’t care about nobody on the other side,’ and that was probably my best game, especially the type of game it was,” Wilfork explained.

“I always wanted to set the tone. I always wanted to be the dictator…Bill and the other coaches, I’d be like ‘listen, I don’t care about matching up what they bring out in the game. Let’s put what we have on the field and let them match us’….Bill trusted us. It just goes to show the type of coach Bill is and the type of leaders we had.”

Fittingly, Wilfork will officially be inducted on Saturday just 24 hours before another chapter in the rivalry with the Ravens is written. He might not be able to give the team any snaps on the field, but he’s hoping to send a message to the team before the game.

“I think it’s important not only for me, but also the players, to understand that even though I’ve been gone from the game for a while…sometimes it’s good to hear somebody else say something other than coach always. Anytime Bill can have somebody that played under him come back and kind of give some knowledge and speak some wisdom. I think players take it differently. It might click like, ‘damn, Bill just told me that last week, but hearing Vince, he’s telling me the same thing,’ so it kind of puts you in a different mind set. I’m hoping I can get over there tomorrow.

“I love being around. I love showing my face, because like I said, Boston’s been great to me. The organization has been super wonderful and Bill has always, always been there for me…it’ll make me happy, especially going against a team in the Ravens where we had a rivalry. I have a few things I’d love to tell the team to get ready for Sunday, so we’re going to see if we can make it happen.”

One of the most important parts of the dynasty has his rightful place among the greats in franchise history. What Wilfork and his teammates were able to accomplish isn’t lost on him, which made Friday’s kick off to the special weekend that much more meaningful.

“For two decades, the Patriots ran it, so I don’t think we’ll never see any other organization do what we’ve done in two decades,” Wilfork added. “We won’t see that, not while we’re living. This is special, to be a part of that, it’s special.”

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