FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Vince Wilfork is many things to the New England Patriots: a run-stuffing defensive lineman, a veteran leader in the locker room, a surprisingly nimble runner for a guy who goes at least 325 pounds.

“He’s got a great team attitude,” said Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach. “He embraces the success of the team, a lot of time that comes at the expense of his personal (achievements).”

But beyond that, Wilfork is a man, a husband and a father.

And this time of year, he and all the other Patriots have to somehow find that delicate balance between preparing for the biggest game of their lives — the AFC championship game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium, 3 p.m. — and spending quality time with their families.

Fans tend to look at football players — or professional athletes in general — as larger than life. They fantasize about the glamorous lives the athletes lead on and off the field.

Truth is, these players aren’t unlike you and me when it comes to family.

Take Wilfork, for example.

When he’s not knocking opposing players down, or encouraging one of his teammates, he’s living a very quiet life at home with his wife, Bianca, and three children, D’Aundre, Destiny and David Dream-Angel.

“When I’m here, I’m at work,” said Wilfork, standing at the podium during Wednesday’s press conference. “When I’m at work, I’m at work. When I’m at home, I’m at home. I’m a father and a husband.”

This time of year, he said, his family doesn’t expect him to home as often. They know that he needs some extra time to prepare, even 8-year-old Destiny, who asks him why he has to go to work.

“For the most part they know, when daddy’s home, he’s home,” he said. “When I leave that house and drive here, it’s all about work. When I’m home, it’s all about home.”

He spends time with his children, shares chores with his wife. Sometimes, he said, “in certain situations,” (such as getting ready to play in a championship game), he brings film home to watch. His family often sits and studies the film with him.

“They’ll all part of this,” he said.

Asked if they give him tips, Wilfork answered in the affirmative.

“My wife tells me, why don’t I make more tackles than I do,” he said.

Football is also a bond he shares with his son. While the Patriots were playing a road game earlier this season, his son was scoring a 60-yard touchdown run in a high school game.

When Wilfork got home, he said to his father, “Well I got something on you. I scored a 60-yard touchdown.”

Humph, said Wilfork, who promptly turned on the game film to see for himself. “He had bragging rights,” said Daddy Wilfork.

At least for a couple of weeks. When the Patriots played at Washington on Dec. 11, Wilfork recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. That culminated a season in which Wilfork also intercepted two passes, returning one 28 yards and the other 19.

“When I got my touchdown I told him I had something he didn’t have,” said Wilfork. “I had two interceptions and a touchdown. But it’s always fun.

“My family is a blessing to me. They keep me going. Even when I’m down and out, they keep me going.”

Married or single, every player has family or friends waiting at home. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich said you have to learn to deal with the work load for big games.

“Right now I’m just focusing on what I have to do on Sunday,” he said.

The longer you play, the easier it becomes to find that balance. And sometimes you need a little help.

Just ask Tom Brady. Married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, father to two young sons, he relies on family to help him get through this week.

“It’s important to have people at home who (can take) care of the kids,” he said. “It gives me a lot of comfort knowing that I can show up to work and be 100 percent committed here. When I was younger, I didn’t have to worry about those things, babysitters and stuff like that. But it’s part of growing up, part of life.

“It’s been a great part of my life. Hopefully we keep winning games. That makes it easier to go home. It’s a much better quality of life for everybody in my household when we win.”

 


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