It may come as a surprise to learn that New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork was a standout member of his high school's track and field squad.
No, Wilfork never flew like Usain Bolt. Or even the world-class runners up who routinely lose to Bolt. He was not a member of the 4 x 100 sprint relay at Santaluces High School in Florida. Rather, Wilfork heaved the shot put and discus.
The eventual first-round NFL draft pick even set a high school record for the state of Florida by tossing the shot 68 feet. As he grew to his current size of 6 feet 2 inches and 325 pounds, Wilfork became equally proficient at throwing around offensive lineman and running backs. Perhaps, with a bit a practice, he could toss the shot put even farther at age 29.
But it looks like he'll never, ever be much of a sprinter.
With the Chargers driving deep into Patriots territory in the waning moments of the first half of Sunday's matchup between the AFC title aspirants, Philip Rivers took a snap in the shotgun formation. He took his seven-step drop and floated a quick out to running back Mike Tolbert. But Wilfork reacted with lightning quickness, blocking the ball up into the air. He tapped it once with this right hand and then managed to bring it down toward his massive chest with both of his meaty paws.
And, then, it was off to the races.
“I thought I would score,” Wilfork told the Worcester Telegram. “Anytime you get your hands on the ball, you always think about scoring as a defensive player because a lot of times you don't get a chance to touch the ball.”
Wilfork didn't score. But not for lack of effort. He first got his hands on the ball at the 34-yard line and broke for the opposite endzone. The veteran defensive lineman rumbled downfield -- with every pound of his gargantuan frame shimmying independently of the next -- and was tripped up at opposite 29.
Not only was the interception the first ever for the three-time Pro Bowl player but it also completely changed the tone of the game. Moments after it looked like the Chargers were going to score, the Patriots were adding a field goal before intermission to stretch their advantage to 20-7. This lead would prove crucial when the Chargers made a comeback bid in the fourth quarter.
“It was a magnificent feat of athleticism, left tackle Matt Light told the Boston Herald. "You saw Vince’s speed out there."