Vince Wilfork’s story starts with Greg Schiano

TAMPA — All week, we’ve been reliving Greg Schiano’s links with Patriots [team stats] players. It’s almost like playing “Six Degrees of Schiano,” as he can be connected with quite a few players in just a few steps of association.

As the former Rutgers coach, his ties with former Scarlet Knight players Devin McCourty, Alex Silvestro and Justin Francis are the easy ones.

But Vince Wilfork [stats]? Where does that link come from? The Patriots nose tackle didn’t go to Rutgers.

As the story goes, prior to taking over the head coaching job at Rutgers, Schiano was the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami under Butch Davis. Naturally, when Wilfork was a highly touted high school prospect, they wanted him as a Hurricane.

Wilfork was a defensive tackle out of Santaluces Community High School in Palm Beach County, Fla. He was also a state champion in the shot put and discus throw, so Big Vince was going to provide some college with multiple talents.

In the end, it was primarily Schiano who recruited him, showering him with letters and visits. But the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach didn’t have to work too hard to land the coveted recruit. As a Florida native, it was always Wilfork’s dream to play at Miami. He signed his letter of intent pretty quickly. So Schiano’s sell job was pretty much icing on the cake.

“I grew up a Hurricanes fan. My first letter from them was a letter offering me a scholarship,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘I took it my junior year, I verbally committed. But he and Butch, they were at UM at that time. They recruited me, so we have a little history together.’’

Every time he sees Schiano, Wilfork gets a little sentimental, thinking back to his early days and how his path to the Patriots took shape.

‘‘I think back to when I was young, that’s where my career basically started from,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘That guy (Schiano) gave me an opportunity. And really, those two guys, Butch Davis and Greg Schiano, they were there way before I even knew who Bill Belichick was.’’

The kicker was, Wilfork never played a down for Davis or Schiano. The duo departed in 2001 after Miami beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. So even though they secured Wilfork, neither was around when he played.

‘‘It was disappointing. I was looking forward to playing for those guys,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘But I’m still a Hurricane for life. I went to a school I wanted to go to. Those guys made it happen for me, and I’m very appreciative of that.’’

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