FOXBOROUGH --- Vince Wilfork spoke glowingly about his fellow University of Miami alumnus, Ray Lewis, when the veteran Baltimore Ravens linebacker announced before the start of the AFC playoffs that this season would be his last.
Lewis missed 10 games this season but returned from a torn triceps and gave the fourth-seeded Ravens an emotional charge in their victories at Cincinnati in the wild-card round and at top-seeded Denver in the divisional round to earn a rematch against the Patriots in the AFC title game.
"When you talk about football, especially defense, the first person you really think about is that guy,'' Wilfork said of Lewis. "What he brings to the team, what he brings to the game, the love and the passion he has for the game.
"It just goes to show you when he came back,it's a new ballclub in Baltimore,'' Wilfork said. "They feed of him because he's their leader, and that city feeds off of him. We have to do a real good job of making sure they don't feed too much off of him in this game because it'll already be tough, but to come in on the emotional high they're on after winning two big games in the playoffs, it's going to be tough.
"You can never question that man's level of execution,'' Wilfork said. "It's unbelievable.''
Lewis served as a mentor to a generation of Miami Hurricane football players, Wilfork included.
"We bleed Orange and Green,'' Wilfork said. "I love to see my guys around the league. It just shows you that we have something special down there [at the University of Miami]. We have mutual respect but at the end of the day, I want to win and he wants to win. We're always competitive.
"Hurricane or no Hurricane, I'm a New England Patriot and I want to win, plain and simple,'' Wilfork said. "I'm pretty sure being in Baltimore, he wants to win. However long it takes, we're going to battle our tails off and after the game we're going to wish each other luck.''
Win or lose, Wilfork expected to visit with Lewis and give him his proper respect.
"Hopefully, with that guy going out, just want to let him know what he meant to this game, because he meant a lot to this game,'' Wilfork said.