At just over 6 feet tall and 325 pounds, Vince Wilfork is an imposing figure.
Putting the New England Patriots star defensive lineman in a gymnasium full of middle school students in Derry on Tuesday only magnified his stature.
But when Wilfork shared the story of how he lost his father at 48 to type 2 diabetes in 2002, the gym at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School was silent. For that moment, Wilfork wasn’t quite so imposing, but very human as he shared his difficult personal story.
As it turned out, Wilfork wasn’t the only one in the gym who had dealt with diabetes. A student asked Wilfork during the assembly how he should deal with his own type 1 diabetes.
Wilfork told the student to follow the advice of his doctors, but also live every day.
“You can’t live in fear. This is a fight we’re all fighting,” Wilfork told the student.
Wilfork was visiting the school with N.H. Senator Jeanne Shaheen to recognize Diabetes Alert Day.
Shaheen’s granddaughter Elle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 8.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. That’s 8.3 percent of the population.
Here’s what Wilfork had to say following the assembly:
“Today was a good day. It had nothing to do with football. It was all about being a human being and how we can help our younger generation move forward. I think we’ve done a good job of that. These guys (the students) asked some great questions. They got a lot of feedback from our experts. They got a chance to meet me and the senator. We had a good time today, so it definitely was a good outing. I thank the senator for her time, Hood allowing me to come here and speak to these kids and it was awesome. It was a great experience for me. And anything I can do with this whole diabetes thing is something near and dear to my heart, and also to the senator. Anything I can do to help, I’m always on board for and today was one of those days where you know what, it had nothing to do with nothing but being a human being and helping one another and that’s what we did today. So hopefully these kids listened to what we had to say, take our advice, and have a bunch of support around them. We just hope that they use them from here on out. And if they do, we definitely have a better place. So we’re going to fight like crazy to make sure that we can get something for this disease, because it’s a bad disease, but we’re going to continue to work on it.”