MILFORD — Leave it to Vince Wilfork [stats] to hold a grudge. Seems he keeps a list of old offenders tucked away, going back to the 2004 draft.
Parked on Wilfork’s personal grudge list are the teams he thought were going to select him, only to pass him over. There’s quite a few on the list.
Hearing the Patriots [team stats] nose tackle recall his draft-day experience is actually pretty amusing. Eight years later, Wilfork laughs at the memory. It just wasn’t much fun that day. It seemed more like torture.
The way Wilfork, then a promising University of Miami standout, tells it, he woke up that morning believing he was going to be an Atlanta Falcon. Based on meetings, workouts and conversations, he was convinced he was going to hear his name called at No. 8 — a top-10 pick.
Only, it didn’t happen. The Falcons went with Virginia Tech corner DeAngelo Hall.
“They were talking every week in Atlanta about me coming,” Wilfork said before to his annual draft-day fund-raiser last night at Pinz, which benefits the Joslin Diabetes Center and Diabetes Research Institute. “Then it was Houston. Then it was Buffalo. Then it was Chicago. So I felt, ‘Well, if I don’t go to Atlanta, I’m going to Houston.’ Then, I didn’t go there.”
Houston had the No. 10 pick. The Texans also went with a cornerback — South Carolina’s Dunta Robinson — instead of the big nose tackle. When the Bears came to bat at No. 14, Wilfork figured his connecton with Bears coach Lovie Smith would seal that deal.
“I knew I was going to Chicago, because me and Lovie, we had a conversation beyond football. It was a personal conversation,” Wilfork said. “We met for a half an hour. So we connected. Then I thought for sure, I was going there. But then No. 14 came, and they picked Tommie Harris. So I’m going, ‘Holy crap, where do I go now? I have no clue.’ But at that moment, my wife was frustrated. I was frustrated.”
Then Wilfork did something he thought he’d never, ever do: He became a Dolphins fan. As a Miami player, that wasn’t supposed to happen. But when you’re desperate on draft day, anything’s possible.
“The one time I turned into a Dolphins fans, it was at (No. 19),” Wilfork said with a laugh. “I’m thinking, ‘Man, if there’s a chance for Miami to get a Florida guy, a Hurricane guy, they don’t draft Hurricanes, but maybe I’m the guy.’ But they picked Vernon Carey, my teammate.
“Now, I’m (ticked),” he said to laughter. “Of all the guys, you picked a Hurricane, and you picked him?”
Six Miami players were drafted in the first round; Carey, an offensive lineman, represented the fifth. That also didn’t please Big Vince. How could he be the last one taken of his teammates? He’d never live that down.
Then his phone rang within minutes of hearing Carey’s name. Berj Najarian, the Pats director of football administration, was calling with Bill Belichick on the line.
“He said, ‘How do you feel about being a New England Patriot?’ I said, ‘I don’t know where you’re at, but I’m ready,’ ” said Wilfork, finally taken at No. 21. “Then I got off the phone, and I asked my wife, ‘Where’s New England? Is that like, New London?’ We didn’t know.
“When we figured out it was Boston, that was great. I’m a Celtics [team stats] fan. That was going to be huge. I grew up a Celtics fan. But ever since that day, everyone who passed me up, I held grudges.”
As for being the last Hurricanes player to go, Wilfork eventually got the last laugh on that one, too.
“I was the first one to get a Super Bowl ring, I know that,” Wilfork said with a smile. “Some of them are still chasing that ring. I just know I wouldn’t change a thing to save my life.”