|Patriots NT Wilfork raises money for research into diabetes|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 16 April 2008 13:56|
Then, just before his sophomore year in college, his father died of complications of the disease. David Wilfork Sr. was 48.
Vince has seen the devastation - physical and emotional - that diabetes can bring. So the New England Patriots nose tackle will spend the first day of the NFL draft at his annual bowling party and fundraiser for research into it.
``I'm very blessed. I'm pretty healthy, my wife's pretty healthy, my kids are healthy,'' Wilfork said. ``Seeing a kid go through what I've seen my father go through for 12 or so years, that's very touching to me. I've made it my point to do something about it.''
That sure doesn't sound like the self-described ``madman'' on the field who was fined four times last season for a total of $37,500.
He was punished for a late hit that hurt Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman's knee, another late hit on Dallas tight end Jason Witten, a poke through the face mask of New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and a penalty for grabbing the face mask of San Diego's Michael Turner in the playoffs.
His image took a pounding, at least among opposing fans.
``Things I do on the field are not part of my everyday life,'' Wilfork said. ``I don't play football when I leave this stadium. I'm a totally different person.
``I think sometimes people probably look at me and say, `Oh, he's such a dirty player, blah, blah.' I'm not. I love what I do. ... I won't stop being the player I am because I play with a lot of emotions.''
Fans don't see the man who personally delivers flyers for his fundraiser on April 26 to homes with his two children, D'Aundre and Destiny. They don't see his big smile when he hangs out with kids at the bowling alley. They don't see his genial manner with fans and reporters.
Four years ago, Wilfork spent the first day of the draft waiting to get picked. He was a star at Miami and figured he'd go very early. Finally, New England took him with the 21st pick. He couldn't celebrate with his parents.
His mother, Barbara, died in December 2002, six months after his father passed away after she had a stroke on his 21st birthday.
Wilfork became a starter in his first pro season and kept getting better. Last season, he was the anchor of a defensive line on a team that went 18-0 - then lost the Super Bowl - and was chosen for his first Pro Bowl.
His weight is a source of concern so he focuses on his diet. Knowing his family health history and the difficulty of keeping his weight down once he retires and his daily workouts end, Wilfork is determined to develop healthy habits.
He's 26 now and has spent more than half his life seeing his father struggle with the ravages of diabetes.
``Every year, it went from losing eyesight to hearing to limbs, to toes, to every month losing something. It was just basically seeing my father die slowly,'' Wilfork said. ``That's what it came to. My brother and I I was nine or 10 years old and had to carry my father to the bathroom because he was so weak he couldn't walk.
``A lot of people don't understand that, because people live with it. I mean, it's doable, don't get me wrong, but at the same time it can get out of hand if you don't take care of it. It can get out of hand. That's what we're trying to prevent.''
Proceeds from Wilfork's fifth annual fundraiser go to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation which supports research programs at the University of Miami.
His draft day event is making a difference in the fight against the disease.
``It's starting to raise eyebrows,'' Wilfork said, ``because every year somebody different is coming to me and telling me about their friends, family or somebody that just got diagnosed with it, or whose had it for this long and it got better thanks to all the research.''
Meanwhile, Wilfork works hard at his offseason conditioning program.
He said he's already lost 10 pounds. He's watching what he eats carefully. And he wants to get through an entire schedule without missing a game, just like he did last season.
He'd just like it to end differently.
With a chance for the first 19-0 season in NFL history, the Patriots lost 17-14 to the New York Giants on Eli Manning's 13-yard scoring pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left in the Super Bowl. Earlier in the drive, Manning scrambled from the Patriots rush and threw a 32-yard completion to David Tyree, who caught the ball above his head with safety Rodney Harrison right by him.
``That was a great catch and a great throw. There was good pressure by our defense. You really can't see anything wrong with that play,'' Wilfork said. ``Moments like that, you can't be mad at yourself. It was up for grabs and we had every opportunity in the world to close the chapter.''
He said he hasn't watched the game again and doesn't plan to.
``It's a whole new season,'' he said. ``There are new guys rolling in here.''
Some of them will come from the draft.
Wilfork may be too busy hanging out with the kids at a suburban bowling alley to pay much attention to who the Patriots pick. Some of his teammates are expected to show up.
Last year, he raised nearly $50,000. Donations can be made online and he's near that total already with draft day more than a week away.
The party is a chance for people to ``be able to just kick back and see how I am off the field. I'm a normal person. ... A lot of people don't understand that because I'm playing all the time.''
So normal, in fact, that he couldn't help but notice the cake for coach Bill Belichick's 56th birthday that was on a table just outside the room where Wilfork spoke.
``I'll take the cake with me,'' he said with a laugh.
Then he left without even dipping his finger into the thick white frosting.