Vince Wilfork honored by Western Massachusetts Boy Scouts

AGAWAM – The Boy Scouts have produced future leaders in this country for decades. Among those the organization can claim is a boy who grew up in Florida and later became a leader on the gridiron, Patriots captain and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork was the keynote speaker on Wednesday night as the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America convened for their annual Distinguished Citizen Award gala at Chez Josef. Tuesday’s dinner is the largest fundraising event for the organization.

Wilfork said his experience as a Scout was an important one and helped develop skills he uses today while anchoring the New England Patriots’ defensive line.

“Being a Scout is a hands-on thing,” Wilfork said. “They teach you to become an adult. It was definitely a fun time in my life. I think it’ll make these guys better men as they grow up.”

Thursday night, players talented enough to be selected in the first round will hear their names called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The 2012 draft class is reportedly stocked with a great deal of defensive talent, which bodes well for the Patriots, who have perceived holes to fill on that side of the ball.

As a captain and veteran heading into his ninth NFL season, Wilfork has some words of advice for possible future Patriots.

“Each one of those young men needs to understand that that is a life-changing moment,” Wilfork said of the draft. “Whoever gets a chance to be a part of this league should know that it’s a privilege.”

Wilfork was selected 21st overall in the 2004 NFL draft. On that April afternoon, he became the fifth member from perennial collegiate powerhouse Miami to be drafted in the first round.

Wilfork’s selection saw one of his longest-standing childhood dreams fulfilled. From an early age, the now-hulking lineman was hooked on the sport.

“I remember growing up, 4 years old and telling my father that this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “And now 30 years later, and nine years into the league, it’s an amazing feeling. It was a dream I had as a youngster, and my dream came true.”

Wednesday night’s Distinguished Citizen Award honoree was AAA of the Pioneer Valley President and CEO, Chris Mensing.

“It’s a wonderful honor,” Mensing said. “I just feel very blessed to be honored and thought of in this way.”

Mensing, though not a Scout growing up, equated the skills he attained and experienced he face through youth sports to the organization.

The Western Mass. Council, BSA, serves Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties. Some 7,200 youth participated in the Boy Scouts in Western Massachusetts in 2011.

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