What you just heard was the sound of the centers and guards of every offensive line across the National Football League sighing in relief.

The reason for their comfort? Vince Wilfork, after 13 grueling seasons as a Pro Bowl-caliber nose tackle is deciding to retire from football.

His numbers don’t exactly pop off the screen at you; just 16 sacks in 13 seasons, and four forced fumbles. When he played your team though, you were made aware, and not just because he was 6 feet 2 inches tall and well over 300 pounds. Wilfork’s professional career started when he was drafted 21st overall out of the University of Miami by New England in the 2004 NFL Draft. From the very beginning, Wilfork was a force on the interior of the defensive line.

His job as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense included helping pressure quarterbacks to either get sacked by his teammates, throw interceptions, or otherwise play more poorly than they would have if he had been just an average player. He also plugged up interior running lanes and gave many an offensive lineman more than they could handle. This is more than just hyperbole, as Wilfork was selected to four All-Pro teams (1 First Team, 3 Second Team) and five Pro Bowls. His other notable accomplishments include four AFC Championships, two Super Bowl wins with New England (in Super Bowl XXXIX and Super Bowl XLIX ten years later), and three times being named in the Top 100 active Football Players by NFL Network.

Following his 11 season tenure in New England, Wilfork helped the Houston Texans have a top 10 defense in 2015, and barely miss out on the mark the next season.

The next stop for Wilfork? Potentially the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio because despite playing an unheralded position as a nose tackle there is no question that for a time, Vince Wilfork was the best at it in the game.

Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison