Ngata already has a wife, Christine, and a 17-month-old son, Solomone (called Sam). Ngata's mother, Olaka, died in 2006 from complications due to diabetes and kidney disease, and further, Ngata says gout is also common among those of his Tongan ancestry. "My wife worries about me," says Ngata. "Right now I don't have any signs of diabetes or gout, but I'm hoping the older I get, the lighter I can play. And then when I'm done, I'm going right down to 270. We want to have more kids, and I want to be able to play with them."
Wilfork, too, has reason for health concerns. Both his parents died in 2002: his father, David, at 48 from complications due to diabetes, and his mother, Barbara, at 46, after a stroke. Wilfork and his wife, Bianca, have three children: sons D'Aundre, 13, and David, 16 months, and daughter Destiny, 7. He may complain that the Patriots keep his weight lower than he'd like, but in reality he says he's working every day to keep it from mushrooming and that he's preparing himself for a healthy life after football.
"When I was younger I never really ate bad," says Wilfork. "It was the portions that killed me. You wouldn't believe the portions. I'm a chicken man, any way you cook it. Fried, barbecued, you name it. And early in my career I was out of hand. Now I grill a lot. I drink a lot of water. I don't eat after seven o'clock at night. My wife stays on me."
Wilfork is standing in the catacombs of Gillette Stadium, just outside the New England locker room. This part is serious. It's another aspect of a brutal game, less visible than the blown-out knees that leave generations limping and less politically urgent than the concussions that rob men of their memories. But no less real. "The last thing I want," says Wilfork, "is to get sick with something I could have changed. When I stop playing, man, I'll be so small you won't even recognize me."
For now, though, the poundage has a purpose. So the big man stays big.