Thanks to a stroke of lucky coincidence, one of the greatest defensive tackles in New England Patriots history is mentoring one of the team’s newest additions.
Earlier this offseason, before his trade to the Patriots, 24-year-old nose tackle Danny Shelton reached out to Vince Wilfork, who enjoyed a highly successful 11-year career with New England before finishing his career with the Houston Texans.
“I think my agent was able to get (Wilfork’s) info,” Shelton said Monday. “He had me reach out to him this offseason not knowing that I was going to be traded, just to kind of hear from a great defensive tackle.”
Shelton was hoping to glean some advice from the five-time Pro Bowler as he prepared for his fourth NFL season. Wilfork, who retired last year, was happy to help.
“Obviously, Vince Wilfork is one of the greatest D-tackles,” Shelton said. “For me, he?s someone I still look up to, even when he was with the Texans. I got an opportunity to reach out to him and kind of pick his brain and learn a couple tips from him. He’s been a guy that’s been really helpful this offseason, and I?m looking forward to reaching out more and learning some more from him.”
At the time of their first conversation, Shelton still was a member of the Cleveland Browns. That changed last week when the Patriots sent a 2019 third-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for the 6-foot-2, 335-pound run stuffer. New England also received a 2018 fifth-round selection in the trade.
Shelton, who has yet to live up to his draft status as the 12th overall pick in 2015, hopes to continue learning from Wilfork now that he’s playing for the big man’s former team.
“Now that I?m a New England Patriots,” he said, “it just seems even more welcoming to learn from one of the greatest New England Patriots.”
Shelton, who drew comparisons to Wilfork following his college career at Washington, also looked up to another former Patriots defender: linebacker Junior Seau, who played four seasons in New England to close out his career.
Like Seau, who died in 2012, Shelton is of Polynesian descent. He wore Seau’s No. 55 in Cleveland and would love to do so again with the Patriots.
The Patriots’ acquisition of Shelton bolstered an interior defensive line that also features fellow 2015 first-rounder Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Vincent Valentine. The team declined to pick up Alan Branch’s contract option and let Ricky Jean Francois walk in free agency.
“I know we’ve got a very talented group,” Shelton said. “I’m really looking forward to getting with the guys and learning from them, as well, to start the relationship building quicker than later.”