FOXBORO, Mass. — All-Pro nose tackle Vince Wilfork returned home Wednesday to retire with the team that gave him a shot back in 2004, the New England Patriots.
Wilfork signed a contract to formally retire with the Patriots in a ceremony held at Gillette Stadium. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick attended the retirement, as did many of Wilfork’s former teammates, including wide receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater, safeties Devin McCourty and Nate Ebner, running back Brandon Bolden, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, defensive end Rob Ninkovich (who announced his own retirement this summer) and many more.
Kraft spoke heavily about what Wilfork and his family meant to the Patriots, while Belichick lauded the defensive tackle’s on-field accomplishments, saying he was the best defensive lineman he ever coached. That’s high praise from a coach who has been in the NFL for 42 years.
Wilfork bookended his Patriots career with Super Bowl XXXIX and XLIX championships and then played two seasons with the Houston Texans.
He explained why he felt it was important to retire with the Patriots.
“I spent 11 years here, 11 great years,” Wilfork said. “My resume wouldn’t have been what it was without New England. The majority of my career, this is home. All the memories I made over the years, the guy that you guys saw and the career that I had, it wouldn’t have happened without the Patriots.
“I always wanted to come back and be a Patriot for life. I never wanted to leave, but things happened. Business is business and it happened, but I knew once I retired, I knew where I needed to be. It’s just so much I had invested in New England. It was the right thing to do.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images