All good things must come to an end, including successful professional football careers. It’s time for Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich to ride off into that proverbial sunset.
There are some very serious commonalities between these two great football players. Each of them gets to retire as a New England Patriot, arguably one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. They also each can be very proud of the two Super Bowl rings they will each be able to cherish as the legacies of their careers. Though they have some important similarities, each man walked his own path through his NFL career
Ninkovich announced his retirement after 12 seasons in the NFL, the last eight seasons with the Patriots. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round in the 2006 NFL Draft. After just one season with the Saints, he was picked up by the Miami Dolphins. After two seasons there, he was picked up by none other than the New England Patriots.
Subsequently, Ninkovich becomes a quiet anchor to the always steadfast New England Patriots defense for the next eight seasons. He amasses consistent stats over the course of his career. Ninkovich recorded 460 tackles, 46 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and five interceptions.
At the press conference to announce his retirement, respect for the linebacker was shown by the owner Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, and a whole list of his Patriot teammates. Bill Belichick gave high praise to the football player as the respect was passed back and forth between a player and his coach.
Belichick referred to Ninkovich as “one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached”. This being an immense compliments coming from one of the greatest NFL Head Coaches ever.
“Coach, I gave you everything I had,” Ninkovich told Belichick. “And I hope it was enough.” This quote seems to be a great microcosm for the career of Rob Ninkovich. The always there linebacker who will be greatly missed on Sunday’s in Gillette Stadium.
“I always wanted to come back and be a Patriot for life. I never wanted to leave, but things happened. Business is business and it happened, but I knew once I retired, I knew where I needed to be.” Wilfork said in reflection. This emotional statement was made concerning the ceremonial one day deal he was granted so that he would be able to retire as a New England Patriot.
Wilfork played an, arguably, Hall of Fame caliber career for 13 seasons. Vince was drafted by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. After 11 seasons with New England, and due to business, Wilfork was traded to the Houston Texans. He spent the final two years of his career in Houston. In the hearts and minds of many, he was, and always will be, considered a Patriot anyways.
By the end of his career, Wilfork had racked up an impressive resume. He logged 559 tackles, 16 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl five times, and has two Super Bowl rings to show for his hard work and dedication.
These will forever be two men who will go down as great football players and class act human beings. They both received the send off and respect they worked so hard to deserve. Happy retirement gentlemen!
[Feature image by Jim Rogash/ Getty Images]