Birthday: November 4, 1981
Strengths: Say a nickname like “Baby Sapp”, and the entire room hushes to hear about him. Lots of undue expectations follow a nickanme like that, and heck, it pretty much wiped out the guy known as “Baby Jordan”. Well, Vince Wilfork is so talented he oughtta be known as “Daddy Sapp”. Why not? He’s got roughly forty pounds on his namesake.
A freak of nature even compared with other big and fast 300-pounders, Wilfork is a tough, thick-bodied interior lineman who’s lovin’ what he’s doin’ when he’s on a football field. Following an impressive lineage of Hurricane defensive linemen such as Jerome Brown, Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland, and Warren Sapp, Wilfork belongs in that pantheon of luminaries because he cannot be blocked one-on-one and must be double-teamed, and even then he still collapses the pocket or stuffs the run. Wilfork’s low center of gravity gives him terrific leverage on offensive linemen, and he has abnormally quick feet that give him a powder keg burst.
Plenty strong, Wilfork set the Hurricane shot put record as a freshman. Though his 5.2 forty time underestimates his footspeed, his defensive line coach termed it best when he said that Wilfork runs with “rhino speed”. Need an example? One day in practice, Wilfork played man coverage on DJ Williams, then a fullback, keeping with him stride-for-stride on a 25-yard out pattern before batting the pass away.
Wilfork’s the classic embodiment of the motor that never quits. After banging against arguably the nation’s best offensive line in practice every day, he led the team with 15 tackles for a loss and 29 quarterback hurries in 2002, adding seven sacks all in relief as part of an eight-man rotation on the line.
Areas for Concern: Now, Sapp was a true “QB Killa”, and Wilfork is not yet the pass rushing fiend that Sapp was. Wilfork can be a monster if he’s in shape and goes hard on every down. Though his weight is down about 30 pounds after gaining 65 as a freshman, he should probably lose another 10 or 15 to play in peak physical condition. And his head coach is helping him stay focused, not accepting him to just play okay. He wants Wilfork to get off his blocks and learn to dominate on every down.
Wilfork has short arms, but he can get better at keeping linemen from getting too close. Wilkfork is a good tackler, too, but he lacks the proper technique at times to wrap up. He’s avoided serious injury thus far, but he has battled though a broken hand that healed as well as other minor injuries like a strained calf and a hyperextended elbow.
How Does He Look in Steel Blue? If head coach Dom Capers wrote an encyclopedia on the 3-4 defense, he’d have Wilfork’s picture on the cover of the volume detailing the heart of the defensive line. Wilfork is loved by his teammates, and he has unlimited potential, a strong work ethic and an even stronger mindset, the latter of which was burnished by his parents, both of whom passed in 2002. Wilfork emerged from his losses showing a real depth of character in a very public eye.
If the Texans are in a position to select Wilfork on draft day, it might be interesting to gauge the Cowboys’ position. Their head coach, Bill Parcells, picked Wilfork, then a sophomore, from Miami’s eventual championship team as the first player on that squad that he’d use to build a team. Quite a compliment from a guy who knows a lineman when he sees one.
(profile written by Keith Weiland
Vince Wilfork’s 2002 Stats G TCK TFL SKS FF FR 11 43 15 7 1 0
Vince Wilfork Return to The War Room
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