Wilfork Promises to Beef Up Pats

Professional football fans in South Florida - a good portion of them at least - gave a thumb's up to the Miami Dolphins' first-round selection of former University of Miami offensive lineman Vernon Carey in the NFL draft. Carey is being viewed as a player that could step right in and help aid one of the Dolphins' biggest weaknesses in recent years. But Vince Wilfork might have other ideas.

Wilfork, chosen 21st overall in the draft by the New England Patriots, provides the reigning Super Bowl champions with a quick 325-pound defensive tackle who takes up plenty of room on the line of scrimmage and makes any opponent's chances of running the ball nearly impossible.

Wilfork, also an ex-Hurricane, knows Carey well from their days together at UM. Both players arrived with plenty of fanfare on the Coral Gables before making solid contributions towards the team's 2001 national championship effort. However, that's in the past.

Now, Wilfork's main job will be to help contain Carey, while the Patriots attempt to hold off the new-look Dolphins once again.

"It's exciting to know that I'm going to part of a rivalry that means so much," said Wilfork. "I've been waiting to play in the NFL all of my life and for it to be with the Super Bowl champions is just icing on the cake. Vernon? He don't know what he has coming."

Wilfork had to wait a while before hearing his name as several teams that brought him in for workouts passed him over. Projected as possibly going among the top-10 selections, Wilfork was still around when Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the call that would change the young man's life.

And while finding quality playing time on a defensive line that includes Richard Seymour and Anthony Pleasant might be a tough task, adding Wilfork to the mix was too good to pass up. The Patriots know they are getting a big player who will routinely require double-teams against the run. Wilfork, a solid tackler, can also make plays in the backfield.

"We saw a lot of good things in Vince," said Belichick. "It's not every day you come across a kid with that kind of size and movement. Nothing is ever a guarantee, but he is certainly worth the risk at this spot."

Wilfork, who recorded 64 tackles and six sacks for the Hurricanes in 2003, was widely regarded as one of college football's top defensive linemen. Still, some might argue that Wilfork underachieved as a member of the Hurricanes as he battled weight issues and personal problems.

In 2002, Wilfork had 43 tackles and seven sacks in 12 games. As a freshman in 2001 Wilfork had 41 tackles in 11 games as he established himself as a disruptive force in the Hurricanes defensive line rotation.

"I'm really happy for Vince - especially after all he's been through," said UM coach Larry Coker. "A lot of his counterparts probably haven't had to overcome some of the same things in their lives."

Although Wilfork is headed to the NFL he could soak in the joy of being drafted with his parents. Both died in 2002, David Wilfork losing a struggle with diabetes and Barbara Wilfork passing away after complications from a stroke. But for Wilfork, who wears a prom photo of his parents on a chain around his neck, both of them will never be far away.

"They're always with me, no matter what," said Wilfork, who raised over $10,000 for the Diabetes Research Institute as part of his draft party at a Miami location. "I know they're looking down saying, ‘Make us proud.'"

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