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Vince Wilfork knows winning. Long before the New England Patriots nose tackle was starring for this season's 8-0 juggernaut, Wilfork played on arguably the most talented college football team in NCAA history. That would be the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, a national champion that included some of today's biggest NFL stars: Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Ed Reed, Frank Gore, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Bryant McKinnie, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Kellen Winslow, Sean Taylor and a cadre of other NFL players.
Though Wilfork was only a freshman on that team, he notched 41 tackles and appeared destined for greatness. Now, four seasons into his NFL career, he's making good on that promise and appears headed for his first Pro Bowl. Vince took some time out to talk to Yahoo! Sports about how success never gets old.
Charles Robinson: So what's it like being the best nose tackle in the NFL these days?
Vince Wilfork: (Laughing) I wouldn't say that. I still have a long way to go. You know what? My teammates make my job a lot easier. I can truly say that. I don't consider myself the best nose tackle out there. Hopefully one day I will be.
Robinson: If you're not the best right now, who is?
Robinson: Don't you feel like this has to be the year for you? Coach (Bill) Belichick says you've developed into the most balanced and best overall nose tackle that he's ever coached.
Wilfork: You know what? Bill coached some great linemen. It's an honor to even be classified in that category. I look at Giants film all the time because (Patriots assistant) Pepper Johnson is always talking about their defense. They had some monsters out there. To be added to that list, I take that to heart. That's special to me.
Robinson: You go back to your days at the University of Miami, and that 2001 team has to be classified as one of the greatest of all time. This could end up being one of the greatest NFL seasons of all time with this Patriots team. Is this par for the course for you, all this winning?
Wilfork: (Laughing) Man, I never get used to winning. I love to win. But one thing that we do around here, we never get relaxed. We're always working. Instead of coming in after a victory and pointing out everything we did good, we point out all the negative things. I think that has to do with the coaching and the leaders on this team. We really are never satisfied.
Robinson: I keep hearing all this stuff that the Patriots are playing mad right now – that you guys are all mad at the rest of the NFL. Do you laugh when you hear that?
Wilfork: Yeah, I do. I won't say we're mad. I'll just say there have been some challenges we've faced and people thought we wouldn't overcome them. We love those challenges and love overcoming them. Whatever people make out of it, that's what we make out of it.
Robinson: You guys seem to be the masters of hyping yourself up and making yourselves believe you are disrespected. I think a lot of people would argue you guys might be the most respected franchise out there, but you guys are always finding some nugget to drive you crazy.
Wilfork: Bill Belichick does a good job of lighting a fire under our butts. He lets us know how bad we suck when everybody else is telling us how great we are. We turn on the film and he shows us plays where we basically went out and sucked. He does a good job of keeping us level headed. It's one thing when you go out to play for your teammates and your organization. It's another when you're going out to prove your own coaches wrong. That's a big challenge for us. Trust me, Bill always has something to keep us riled up.
Robinson: I don't think I've ever heard a player say they appreciate a coach telling them they suck.
Wilfork: Well, right now we're 8-0. We could easily go into the locker room and push everything to the side and say "Hey, we've done a good job." But Bill keeps us on edge. He always has something up his sleeve. He's always got something that he needs to show us or tell us or what other teams think of us. Sometimes it's negative. Sometimes it's positive. And we want to prove them wrong. And I love proving them wrong.
Robinson: You've got two kids now, right?
Wilfork: Yep. (His son D'Aundre is 9 and his daughter Destiny is 4.)
Robinson: So I guess you don't really have any off days anymore, do you?
Wilfork: (Laughing) Nooooooooo. My off days are waking up and taking the kids to school. You'd think my off days are sleeping in until 10 o'clock. My off days, I'm up at 7 o'clock serving breakfast. But you know what? I have no problem getting up and being there for my kids and family. If I can get up and go to work, then I can find the time for my family. I don't get all the time I want to, but the time I do have for them, I spend it wisely with them.
Robinson: You've got to be the cool dad, right?
Wilfork: (Laughing) You've got to ask my kids that. I think I'm a cool dad. My son, he doesn't like football too much. He's a baseball and basketball fan. I totally respect that, but I love contact. And you don't get any more contact than football. But hey, to each his own. Actually, I think my daughter is going to grow up to be a football player. She's every bit of me.
Robinson: But she's not going to be a nose tackle, right?
Wilfork: (Laughing) No, she's more of a linebacker.
Robinson: I'm sure your wife will be thrilled to hear her daughter is the family linebacker.
Wilfork: Shoot. She’ll probably agree with me.