Vince Wilfork has been through so much over the last couple of years that he was compelled to share the biggest moment of his football career with family, friends and fans at the Big Daddy Draft Day Party at GameWorks Saturday.
Wilfork, who lost both of his parents in a six-month span in 2002, invited media members and Hurricane fanatics to watch him get drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round [No. 21 overall] of the N.F.L. Draft. During the event, donations were collected for the Diabetes Research Institute and Wilfork matched all the money raised in a silent auction and raffle to make his own contribution. Several of Wilfork’s teammates were on hand, including Antrel Rolle, Quadtrine Hill, Baraka Atkins and Santonio Thomas, and Head Coach Larry Coker stopped by to wish him well.
Kim Neubecker, the Southeast Region marketing director for GameWorks, said Wilfork’s choice to share the experience of being drafted with loyal fans shows a great deal about his character.
“[The Wilfork family] are absolutely wonderful people,” Neubecker said. “They have been through so much, and to watch him come out and share this with all of his family and fans [is great]. He could have gone to New York but he decided to stay.”
Wilfork was originally projected to be drafted by either the Houston Texans with the 10th pick or the Chicago Bears with the 14th pick, so when he was still unclaimed while the Patriots were on the clock, there was a bit of anxiety within his family.
Wilfork said he was expecting to be chosen earlier but was pleased with how everything worked out.
“I am not disappointed [about sliding to No. 21], but I am a little disappointed about Atlanta and Chicago for not picking me up,” he said. “But I am happy about where I am at right now. The Patriots know a lot about winning, and I know a lot about winning, so hopefully we can win a championship this season.”
Wilfork was one of six Hurricanes to be chosen in the first round, which broke the record for most players taken in Round One, set by Miami in 2002 with five. Sean Taylor went to the Washington Redskins at No. 5, Kellen Winslow II was selected by the Cleveland Browns at No. 6, Jon Vilma was taken by the New York Jets at No. 12, D.J. Williams was chosen by the Denver Broncos at No. 17, and Vernon Carey went to the Miami Dolphins at No. 19.
Wilfork said he was not surprised by the amount of Hurricanes drafted early.
“Getting a lot of players drafted is something that we do a lot,” he said. “It didn’t surprise me that we got six players taken in the first round. Hopefully, the team can break that record next year and get seven drafted in the first round.”
Wilfork may have been chosen a bit lower than he would have liked, but the defensive tackle was all smiles while signing autographs minutes after being taken by the Patriots. When asked about the drastic change in climate between South Florida and New England, the Boynton Beach, Fla., native said he wouldn’t mind having to wear a few more layers of clothing.
“I have never been to Massachusetts, but I love cold weather.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at email@example.com.
‘CANES TAKEN IN ROUND 1
A record six UM players were drafted in the first round this year, breaking the record (five) the ‘Canes set in 2002. Here is a list of the Hurricanes that helped accomplish the feat.
Sean Taylor – No. 5
The Redskins were debating between Taylor and Kellen Winslow, but decided to go with the Hurricanes’ safety after making several moves in the off season to bolster their offense. Expect Taylor to be one of the best defensive players in the league after a few years.
Kellen Winslow -No. 6
Cleveland Browns (from Detroit)
Cleveland Head Coach Butch Davis, Larry Coker’s predecessor, wanted Winslow so badly that he traded up from No. 7 to No. 6 to lock him up. Winslow could easily become the best tight end in the league over time.
Jon Vilma – No. 12
New York Jets
Vilma’s status was up-and-down throughout the weeks leading up to the draft. Some people thought he would be picked towards the end of the first round, while others thought the Jets would choose him. The fact that South Carolina cornerback Dunta Robinson was already gone when the Jets had to make their pick helped Vilma’s cause.
D.J. Williams-No. 17
Denver Broncos (from Cincinnati):
The Broncos decided to improve their linebacker corps instead of taking a shot at Oregon State running back Stephen Jackson. Williams should flourish as a pass rusher/run stopper for Denver.
Vernon Carey-No. 19
Miami Dolphins (from Minnesota):
The Dolphins were so worried that other teams would trade up and steal Carey that they made a deal to move up one spot in order to secure the offensive lineman. The Dolphins’ beleaguered o-line will be aided tremendously by Carey.
Vince Wilfork-No. 21
New England Patriots:
The Patriots were not expecting Wilfork to be around this late in the first round, so when Big Daddy fell to them at No. 21, the Pats took advantage of what turned out to be one of the steals of the draft. The defending Super Bowl champions were fortunate to get Wilfork, who should provide depth to their d-line.