— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) May 17, 2017
It’s 7:30 a.m. when the phone rings. On the other end of the line is Vince Wilfork. He wants to talk barbecue.
“Everybody that knows me, knows I love to barbecue, that’s one of the things,” he says. “No matter if it’s my teammates, my friends or people that just meet me, the first impression that they’re always gonna get about me is one, I’m big, and two, I like to eat and cook.”
The 6-foot-2, 325-pound NFL free agent has cultivated this reputation for years, regularly hosting large barbecue events for family, friends and teammates as a defensive lineman for the New England Patriots and Houston Texans.
While most people love the 35-year-old’s fare, however, Wilfork admitted not everyone’s a fan. His youngest son, for example, still prefers chicken nuggets to ribs. And the pickiest Patriot, quarterback Tom Brady, has never even tasted Wilfork’s barbecue.
“We kind of X’ed him out. He be on a certain diet,” Wilfork says of the five-time Super Bowl champion whose meticulously healthy diet doesn’t even allow him to eat tomatoes on a regular basis.
“If Tom Brady would try my barbecue, maybe Tom Brady would turn into me,” Wilfork jokes. “I don’t think nobody wants that.”
Wilfork, of course, might be underselling himself. In his 11 seasons with the Patriots, Wilfork was named to the Pro Bowl five times and won two Super Bowls.
Today, Wilfork, who spent the past two seasons with the Texans, remains a free agent, a state of limbo he doesn’t appear to mind.
“I want to make sure — 100 percent — I make the right decision in what I do,” he says when I ask if he plans to continue playing football. “I’m in no rush to make a decision.”
He sounds like he’s treating his offseason the same way he treats his barbecue — with patience.
“Low and slow,” he repeats several times during our short conversation. He’s referring to the cooking temperature and the length of time one must dedicate to barbecue to make it the right way.
It’s barbecue, not football, that has his full attention now, thanks in part to his new partnership with Kingsford charcoal, which launched a White House petition Wednesday to make ribs America’s national food. If it can garner 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the Trump Administration legally must respond.
“Man, that would be the best thing ever to have ribs be the national food for America,” he says. “When you talk about America and you talk about ribs, they go hand in hand. Every big holiday there is, there’s a smoker going on and people barbecuing.”
In Wilfork’s case, there’ll be multiple smokers going.
“Three or four,” he says, for a rib feast to feed more than 50 people on Memorial Day or July 4.
He’ll get up at sometimes between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. to get his cookout going, but Wilfork doesn’t mind. (He’s a morning person, judging from the chipper wake-up call on Wednesday.) He cherishes the quiet time he gets on barbecue days.
“It’s relaxing,” he says. “You have to have patience. I get up in the morning, make sure everything I need is done. … Get my fire going, get my coals going. Get that smell going. Get my temperature where it needs to be [between 200-250 degrees, he says] and once my temperature is where it needs to be, then it’s time to rock and roll. From there, I can do whatever I want. Most of the time, I’m sitting back listening to music, having a nice cigar. … It gives me time to just relax because nothing’s rushed. … I take my time.”