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Vilma has made a significant impact in the middle of the Saints defense since joining the club in 2008, leading the club in tackles each season. A leader on and off the field, he’s has been recognized by teammates as the club’s winner of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2008 and his being voted the defensive team captain in 2009.
Last season he led the Saints in stops for the second consecutive season with 130 tackles (100 solo), two sacks, three interceptions and eight passes defensed. He was the first Saints linebacker to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Mark Fields after the 2000 season.
His memorable moments in 2009 were many. Among his top performances:
- Recorded nine tackles vs. Atlanta, but hit biggest play came when he tipped a pass at the New Orleans one-yard line with Saints holding a four point lead. The ball was picked up by CB Tracy Porter and returned 18 yards to lead to a TD and give the Saints an 11 point cushion.
- Nine tackles and a late fourth quarter interception at Washington that kept the Redskins from scoring and ensured the game would go to overtime.
- His eight-tackle day at Atlanta led the team. The biggest plays came in the fourth quarter with an interception and a tackle of Falcons RB Jason Snelling short of the first down marker on a critical fourth-and-two play, one yard short, to ensure a 26-23 win.
- In the NFC Championship Game vs. Minnesota, made three big plays; intercepting QB Brett Favre, forcing a fumble by RB Adrian Peterson and later recovering another fumble by WR Bernard Berrian
- In Super Bowl XLIV, made eight tackles, including one where he stuffed Colts RB Joseph Addai for a three yard loss and broke up a deep pass in the fourth quarter on a critical third-and-11 play.
A leader on the field and in the locker room, tireless in preparation and fierce while patrolling the middle, Vilma has proven to be everything the Saints had hoped for since acquiring him in 2008. Vilma has been the club’s leading tackler each of the past two seasons, earning a reputation as one of the NFL’s top linebackers. Fresh after the Saints inked him to a five-year contract in the first day of free agency and elected a defensive captain by his teammates, the former University of Miami standout enjoyed his finest season as a key component to the club’s Super Bowl XLIV champion squad. He became the first Saints linebacker to be selected to the Pro Bowl since 2000, recording 130 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and eight pass defenses. Vilma arrived in New Orleans after a four-year stint with the New York Jets, where after being selected 12th overall in 2004, he earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Though six seasons, Vilma has enjoyed impressive results, recording 741 tackles (514 solo), ten interceptions, eight forced fumbles, six recoveries and 5.5 sacks, starting 84 of 86 career games.
2009: Pro Bowl; 2005: Pro Bowl; 2004: Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; Football Digest Defensive Rookie of the Year; Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team; AFC Defensive Rookie of the Month (November).
Re-signed to five-year contract, 3/3/09; Agreed to terms on five-year contract (UFA), 2/27/09; Acquired by the Saints from New York Jets for a fourth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, 2/29/08; Placed on Injured Reserve, 10/27/07; Selected in the first round by the Jets (12th overall) in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Elected defensive team captain, started all 15 regular season games and three postseason games in which he played…Did not play at Carolina, Jan. 3…Led Saints in tackles for second consecutive season with 130 (102 solo)…Added two sacks, three interceptions, tied for second in NFL among linebackers and eight pass defenses…Tied career-highs in takedowns, picks and deflections…Selected to the second Pro Bowl of his career, as he was the first Saints linebacker to receive the honor since 2000 (Mark Fields…In postseason, recorded 14 tackles (13 solo), one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two pass defenses…Recorded four tackles (three solo), a sack of Lions QB Matthew Stafford for a loss of seven yards and a pass defense vs. Detroit, Sept. 13…South Florida native played in his hometown for the first time since joining Saints at Miami, Oct. 25 and led team with 11 solo tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage…Tipped a pass by Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter at the New Orleans one-yard line vs. Atlanta, Nov. 2. The ball was picked up in the air by CB Tracy Porter and returned 18 yards, helping create a TD drive that gave New Orleans an 11-point cushion. He also added nine tackles (seven solo)…Recorded 12 tackles (ten solo), with two stops for a loss vs. Carolina, Nov. 8…Recorded 12 tackles (11 solo) for the second straight week as he played a key role in limiting Rams RB Steven Jackson to only 31 second half rushing yards at St. Louis, Nov. 15…Made his first interception of the season with a third quarter pick of Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman at Tampa Bay, Nov. 22…Led the Saints with ten tackles (eight solo) vs. New England, Nov. 30…His fourth quarter interception of Jason Campbell, prevented a score and guaranteed game would go to overtime at Washington, Dec. 6. Also added nine tackles (six solo)…Led team with eight tackles (seven solo) and made two big fourth quarter plays to seal win at Atlanta, Dec. 13, with an interception of Falcons QB Chris Redman and a tackle of RB Jason Snelling short of first down marker on critical fourth-and-two situation, their final offensive play…Posted season-high 15 tackles (11 solo) with four-yard sack of QB Tony Romo and a pass defense vs. Dallas, Dec. 19…Tied for team lead with ten tackles (seven solo) at Tampa Bay, Dec. 27…In NFC Championship vs. Minnesota, Jan. 24, Vilma made three big plays; a third quarter interception of Brett Favre at the New Orleans 28-yard line, forcing a fumble by RB Adrian Peterson and later recovering a fumble by WR Bernard Berrian deep in New Orleans territory. Also chipped in five solo tackles and a pass defense…In Super Bowl XLIV vs. Indianapolis, Feb. 7, recorded eight tackles (seven solo), including one for a loss when he stuffed RB Joseph Addai on a second-and-one play for a three yard loss to help set up a three-and-out. Also broke up a deep pass to Indianapolis WR Austin Collie on a fourth quarter, third-and-11 play to force what would be a missed field goal attempt.
Led or shared team lead in tackles in 10 contests, and recorded double-digit tackle totals in eight games…With 151 stops (100 solo), had the most tackles for a Saints defender since LB Winfred Tubbs had 160 in 1997…Set career-high with two fumble recoveries, and added three forced fumbles, an interception, a sack and eight pass defenses…In Saints debut, had team-high 12 tackles vs. Tampa Bay, Sept. 7…Posted season-high 17 tackles (12 solo) at Washington, Sept. 14, and two pass defenses, playing every defensive snap…Set up Saints’ first TD with a recovered fumble and notched eight stops vs. San Francisco, Sept. 28…In Weeks 5-7, posted 32 tackles and deflected two passes…Oct. 26 vs. San Diego had 10 tackles (eight solo) and an eight-yard interception return. Interception of QB Phillip Rivers at the New Orleans 10 ended Chargers’ scoring opportunity…Had dominating performance at Tampa Bay, Nov. 30, with seven stops (six solo), a sack, a tipped pass, a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery…Recovered a fumble and added nine tackles at Chicago, Dec. 11…Closed season with 13 stops (10 solo) vs. Carolina, Dec. 28.
Selected as defensive captain by Jets teammates, started seven games and made 39 tackles with an interception and two pass defenses before suffering knee injury that landed him on injured reserve…Led team with nine tackles at Buffalo, Sept. 30…Picked off an Eli Manning pass at New York Giants, Oct. 7…Notched four solo tackles and a pair of pass defenses Oct. 14 vs. Philadelphia…Placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, Oct. 27.
Started all 16 games at ILB, recording 116 tackles, an interception and four pass defenses…Led team in tackles with 12 in win at Tennessee, Sept. 10…Put up 10 tackles and returned a recovered fumble 12 yards Sept. 24 at Buffalo…Led the team with 11 tackles and notched two pass defenses and an interception in win vs. Detroit, Oct. 22…Forced a fumble and added nine tackles at Miami Christmas night.
Earned team MVP honors and a Pro Bowl berth as he led the NFL with 187 tackles (143 solo), intercepted a pass, forced four fumbles, recovered a fumble and had four pass defenses…In the Oct. 9 win vs. Tampa Bay, led team with 14 tackles (11 solo) and a forced fumble…Made nine stops (seven solo) and notched a pass defense and his first INT of season at Atlanta, Oct. 24…Registered a career-high 18 tackles (14 solo), along with two pass defenses and a forced fumble Nov. 20 at Denver…Notched a team-best 14 tackles, including one for a loss and forced a fumble at New England, Dec. 4…His 17 tackles led the team for the fourth consecutive week vs. Patriots, Dec. 26.
Named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as he notched 118 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions, four pass defenses, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery…Made first career start at Miami Oct. 3, tying for team-high with seven tackles…Recorded first career interception against San Francisco, Oct. 17, when he picked off a Tim Rattay pass with 1:44 left to seal victory…Recorded seven tackles, two pass defenses and returned an interception 38 yards for a TD in regular-season finale at St. Louis…Started first plaoyff game and led team with 12 tackles and a sack in Wild Card win at San Diego…Notched postseason team-high 17 tackles in Divisional Playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
Played in 47 games for the Hurricanes, starting 37, and recorded 371 tackles (234 solo), three sacks, seven fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles and an interception…Three-time Academic All-Big East Conference and two-time Butkus Award nominee (semi-finalist in 2002 and finalist in 2003)…Selected first-team All-America by the American Football Coaches Association and Walter Camp, added second-team honors from the Associated Press. Also added first-team All-Big East Conference and Academic All-Big East honors as a senior… Unanimous All-Big East Conference and Academic All-Big East first-team choice and a semi finalist for the Butkus Award as a junior…Selected the University of Miami’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the 2002-03 academic year...All-Big East Conference and Academic All-Big East first-team choice as a sophomore.
Three-year letter-winner and two-year captain at Coral Gables (Fla.) HS, where he notched 138 tackles and 11 sacks as a senior, and was a Miami Herald Class 5A-6A All-Dade first-team selection…Majored in Finance at UM…In support of relief efforts for the Haiti Earthquake, Vilma, whose parents are both natives of the nation, participated in a PSA soliciting fan donations that was aired nationally prior to NFL’s conference championship games…Also produced and sold a t-shirt to benefit the efforts…Honored as a Hometown Hero and 2006 National United Way spokesman for the NFL’s Lend a Hand campaign at the United Way Gridiron Gala in 2007…Hosts a financial conference for NFL players called “Jonathan Vilma’s Financial 51” to help players manage their money…Named a Board Member of the National Football Foundation's “Play It Smart” program, an educational program designed to use football as a vehicle to foster the academic, personal and career development of at-risk student athletes…Has given talks to schools about success on the field and in the classroom, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle…Represented the Miami-Dade County Community Foundation and Jonathan Vilma Charitable Fund on an episode of Wheel of Fortune, which aired on Sept. 6, 2006…Has his own website, www.jonvilma.com.