Vince Wilfork is a Houston Texan.
The 33-year-old defensive tackle, whose option was not picked up by the New England Patriots last week, announced the move via Twitter on Monday afternoon.
“This has been a very interesting process for me and my family,” Wilfork said in a letter, “one we have taken very seriously and given a lot of thought. We want to thank the Kraft family and the entire Patriot organization for the last 11 years, however we will be starting a new chapter in our lives as Houston Texans.”
Wilfork’s official departure from New England marks the end of an era.
“Few players reached or will ever reach the special level of Vince Wilfork,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. “He is a great champion and one of the classiest people I have ever been around – just a kind, genuine and giving person who was all about our team, football, winning and bringing joy to others. There may have never been anyone at his position with as much strength, toughness, intelligence, instinctiveness and athleticism. He is the best defensive lineman I ever coached, an all-time great Patriot whose place on our team will be missed but whose remarkable career as a Patriot will be remembered forever.”
His departure arrives after 158 regular-season games, 516 tackles, 16 sacks, 25 pass breakups, three interceptions, five forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. And it arrives after the seven-time captain and five-time Pro Bowler earned his second Super Bowl victory on Feb. 1.
But, for No. 75, the place he’s now arriving in is very much the place he grew up in. It is a place where the grounds are very much the same as they were in Foxborough under Belichick.
Houston brings familiar territory for the 6-foot-2, 325-pound nose, well beyond the 3-4 scheme designed for him. Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, former Patriots assistant George Godsey, and former Patriots teammate Mike Vrabel all reside there on staff.
And as the 2004 Patriots first-round pick looks for the final page in his NFL career, the Texans may just be as close as it gets to the first.
“The coaching staff in Houston has made this new exciting transition feel like home to us,” Wilfork added. “We will forever be Patriots in our hearts. Thank you everyone for everything.”