New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has one regret in his life, and it has nothing to do with missed opportunities in the playoffs or a bad performance on the football field.
Wilfork simply regrets that his father never got to see the man he has become. David Wilfork Sr. died from diabetes in 2002, two years before his son broke into the league and became the five-time Pro Bowler he is today.
Wilfork appeared alongside U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in front of 750 students at Walter H. Hood Middle School in Derry Tuesday.
The event was part of Diabetes Alert Day, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association, which is a one-day call to action for Americans to assess their potential risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Wilfork delivered the message that there are ways to positively cope with the disease.
"I was young, I was eight years old and really didn't understand," Wilfork said of trying to help his father as he suffered from diabetes. "I didn't have anybody to come explain to me what it meant or what is diabetes. You have an opportunity to have two people speak to you today that have personal connections with diabetes. If you only remember one thing from me, just remember, we can all do something about it. Please do not be stubborn."
Shaheen brought along her oldest granddaughter Elle, who has type 1 diabetes, and Elle's service dog, Coach, who helps her manage her diabetes.
In a press availability after the presentation, Shaheen praised Wilfork for his diabetes prevention effort.
"All of us Patriots fans know who (Vince Wilfork) is, know what a terrific football player he is, but he's also someone who has worked very hard to bring awareness about the dangers and the tragedy of diabetes," said Shaheen.
Accompanying Wilfork and Shaheen were Wilfork's wife, Bianca, and five diabetes experts to answer questions from the students.
According to a release from Shaheen's office, she and Wilfork have previously worked together to raise diabetes awareness, most recently when they filmed a public service announcement at the 50 yard line of Gillette Stadium as part of American Diabetes Month.
The release also detailed legislation that Shaheen is working on with a fellow lawmaker from Maine:
Earlier this month Shaheen and Diabetes Caucus co-chair Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced new legislation to establish a commission of health care experts to advance diabetes care and prevention. The bill, the National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Care Act, would bring together public and private sector experts in diabetes research and treatment to offer insight improving clinical care for diabetes patients. Wilfork created the Vince Wilfork Foundation which supports diabetes research, awareness, prevention and proper care. Wilfork is a passionate supporter of diabetes awareness and has started such events as the NFL Draft Day Fundraiser and the Tackle Diabetes Fundraiser.