Jonathan Vilma
refer to caption
Vilma in 2010
No. 51
Personal information
Born: (1982-04-16) April 16, 1982 (age 41)
New York City, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High school:Coral Gables Senior (Coral Gables, Florida)
College:Miami (FL) (2000–2003)
NFL draft:2004 / Round: 1 / Pick: 12
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Forced fumbles:11
Player stats at · PFR

Jonathan Polynice Vilma (born April 16, 1982) is an American color analyst and former professional football player in the National Football League (NFL). He played as a linebacker and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Vilma played college football for the Miami Hurricanes, winning a national championship in 2001. He was selected by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Vilma won a Super Bowl championship with the New Orleans Saints. He serves as a color analyst for the NFL on Fox. He previously worked at ESPN as a college football commentator and studio analyst.[1] Vilma was elected as a member of the Orange Bowl Committee in 2018.

Early years

Vilma was born in East Harlem Neighborhood of New York City to Haitian immigrant parents.[2][3] His family moved to Coral Gables, Florida when Vilma was 6 years old, where he attended G.W. Carver Middle School and later Coral Gables Senior High School, where he was a teammate of Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore.

College career

Vilma received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Miami, and played for coach Butch Davis and coach Larry Coker's Miami Hurricanes football teams from 2000 to 2003.

2000 season

In 2000, Vilma played in all 11 games as a reserve middle linebacker and compiled 38 tackles (29 solo) and a pass deflection.

2001 season

After the graduation of Dan Morgan, Vilma stepped into the starting middle linebacker role and played an integral role on the Hurricanes' National Championship team. He led the team in tackles with 79 (54 solo) and compiled two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery for a 36-yard touchdown, three pass deflections and an interception. He started 11 of 12 games during the regular season and was selected on the First-team All-Big East team.

2002 season

Vilma led Miami in tackles with 133 (75 solo), and had two quarterback sacks, a forced fumble, recovered two fumbles, (returning one for a touchdown) and broke up five passes. He earned unanimous first-team All-Big East selection for the second time in his career and was a semi-finalist for the Dick Butkus Award, along with teammate D.J. Williams.

2003 season

In his final year, Vilma led the team in tackles for a third time with 127 (81 solo), with one sack, forced one fumble, and recovered three fumbles. Vilma ended the year as a finalist for the Butkus Award.

Along with his success on the field, Vilma was a three-time Academic All-Big East Conference. He received a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Miami's School of Business Administration.

Vilma was interviewed about his time at the University of Miami for the documentary The U, which premiered December 12, 2009 on ESPN.

Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press
6 ft 0+12 in
(1.84 m)
233 lb
(106 kg)
31+12 in
(0.80 m)
9+38 in
(0.24 m)
4.60 s 4.20 s 6.67 s 37 in
(0.94 m)
10 ft 1 in
(3.07 m)
23 reps
All values from NFL Combine/Pro Day[4][5]

New York Jets

Vilma was drafted by the Jets in the first round with the 12th selection in the 2004 NFL Draft.[6]


In 2004, Vilma was named as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. During his rookie campaign, he recorded 107 tackles, two sacks, and three interceptions, one of which was returned for his first NFL touchdown.


In 2005, Vilma led the NFL in tackles with 169, forced four fumbles, notched one fumble recovery, half a sack, and one interception. Vilma also replaced Zach Thomas at the 2006 Pro Bowl.


In 2006, Vilma put together another solid season. He compiled 114 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception.


On October 27, 2007, Vilma was placed on injured reserve. He suffered a season ending knee injury during the New York Jets week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.[7][8]

New Orleans Saints


On February 29, 2008, the Jets traded Vilma to the New Orleans Saints for a fourth-round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and a conditional pick in the 2009 NFL Draft (ultimately a third-round pick). Jets then-head coach Eric Mangini elected to start linebackers Eric Barton and David Harris in his place.

In his first season with the Saints, Vilma was a bright spot on a weak defensive unit. Vilma played in all 16 games, and recorded 132 tackles with one sack.

2009: Super Bowl year

On February 27, 2009, Vilma signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Saints.[9] Vilma was elected one of the defensive captains, led the team in tackles, had three interceptions, and was chosen for his second Pro Bowl. In Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010, Vilma made several important plays, including making a key defensive audible and deflecting a pass on 3rd and 11 in the fourth quarter. The Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31–17.


Vilma again led the team in tackles in 2010, started every game, and was selected to the Pro Bowl. In 2011, he started and played in 11 games but was inactive for six others with a knee injury.

2012: Bounty scandal

Vilma was a central figure in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. The NFL alleged that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams operated an incentive program, which paid out "bounties" for deliberately putting opposing players out of games. The league alleged that Vilma offered $10,000 cash to anyone who knocked Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Most notably, Favre was forced out of the game for one play with an ankle injury. Although up to 27 players were accused of involvement, Vilma was the only player initially singled out by the league for his role.[10][11] The NFL suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season on May 2, 2012. The suspension was reported to be the longest suspension related to in-game misconduct in modern NFL history, dwarfing the previous record of five games handed to Albert Haynesworth for stomping on Andre Gurode's head in 2006. The league contended that Vilma and defensive end Will Smith aided Williams in starting the alleged program in 2009.[12] Vilma found out about the suspension when it was announced on SportsCenter, immediately announced his intent to appeal and adamantly denied that he was involved in any sort of bounty scheme.[13] Vilma filed a personal slander suit against Roger Goodell.[14]

Opinions about the suspensions were divided, as alleged targets like Favre and Kurt Warner claimed that incentive programs were part of the game, which was corroborated by [15] former players interviewed by Sports Illustrated. On July 26, Vilma and seven witnesses from the Saints (along with a sworn affidavit from Drew Brees) testified to a federal judge in New Orleans that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell misrepresented the facts in the league's investigation. Vilma's suspension was overturned on September 7, and he was reinstated for the 2012 season.[16] The Associated Press reported Roger Goodell's disappointment in the determination of the arbitration board's ruling.

On October 9, 2012, the league again suspended Vilma, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, Saints defensive end Will Smith and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove. Vilma's suspension lasted throughout the entire 2012 season, but he was allowed to retain his paychecks (when he was on the Physically Unable to Perform list) for the first six weeks of the season.[17] The suspensions were then reviewed by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who overruled Roger Goodell and vacated the suspensions on December 11, 2012. Vilma continued his defamation lawsuit against commissioner Goodell,[18] but it was ultimately dismissed in January 2013.[19]

In total, Vilma played in 11 games during the 2012 season.


Vilma underwent knee surgery during the preseason and was placed on the Reserve/Injured Designated for Return list, with the hope that he would recover in time to play during the season. He was reactivated for the Saints' eighth game, a 26–20 loss to his former team, the New York Jets, and was in the game for only 12 defensive snaps. The following week, he was again placed on injured reserve, ending his 2013 season.[20]


On February 12, 2014, Vilma's contract was not renewed with the New Orleans Saints. He became a guest analyst on Bleacher Report.[21]

Vilma officially retired from football, and was honored by the Saints before their home game on December 6, 2015.[22]


Vilma was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame on October 29, 2017.

NFL career statistics

Led the league
Bold Career best
Year Team GP Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
Cmb Solo Ast Sck Int Yds PD TD FF FR
2004 NYJ 16 108 77 31 2.0 3 58 5 1 0 1
2005 NYJ 16 173 128 45 0.5 1 1 6 0 4 1
2006 NYJ 16 117 69 48 0.0 1 0 4 0 0 1
2007 NYJ 7 41 31 11 0.0 1 1 4 0 1 0
2008 NO 16 132 98 34 1.0 1 8 6 0 2 3
2009 NO 15 110 87 23 2.0 3 25 8 0 0 0
2010 NO 16 105 70 35 4.0 1 5 3 0 3 1
2011 NO 11 54 36 18 0.0 0 0 2 1 1 3
2012 NO 11 37 20 17 1.0 1 18 2 1 0 0
2013 NO 1 1 1 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals[23] 125 879 617 262 10.5 12 116 40 3 11 10

Personal life

Vilma is a spokesman for Under Armour and WaterBank of America USA Inc.[24]

His parents, Fritz Vilma and Nelly Banatte, migrated to the United States from Haiti in the 1970s. After the 2010 earthquake, he was active in relief efforts.[25]

Vilma started the Jonathan Vilma Foundation after the 2010 Haiti earthquake to help with the rebuilding efforts in Haiti, in particular a charter school to educate students from elementary school to high school.


  1. ^ "Jonathan Vilma - ESPN MediaZone".
  2. ^ "Jonathan Vilma". NFL. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  3. ^ Corbett, Jim (January 21, 2010). "Once castoffs, Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma fueling Saints". USA Today. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  4. ^ "Gil Brandt's NFL Draft Analysis By Position: Linebackers". Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  5. ^ "Miami LB Jonathan Vilma : 2004 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile". Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  6. ^ "2004 NFL Draft Listing". Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  7. ^ "Chicago Sun Times". Archived from the original on December 4, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2007.
  8. ^ Litsky, Frank (November 14, 2007). "Jets' Vilma Speaks, a Little, About His Knee and Surgery". New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  9. ^ "Saints reach agreement with Vilma -". February 27, 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  10. ^ Judge, Clark (March 2, 2012). "Saints, team officials involved in bounty program should pay dearly". Archived from the original on December 24, 2013.
  11. ^ "NFL announces management discipline in Saints' 'bounty' matter". National Football League. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Vilma banned one year". ESPN. May 2, 2012.
  14. ^ "Vilma lawsuit puts Goodell on the run". Foxsports. May 22, 2012.
  15. ^ Perez, A. J. (March 9, 2012). "Bounty issue could be NFL legal problem". Fox Sports.
  16. ^ "Saints player bounty suspensions overturned on appeal". Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  17. ^ Brooks, Matt. "Report: NFL re-issues bounty suspensions for Saints players". The Washington Times. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  18. ^ "Saints' Jonathan Vilma pursuing defamation case against Roger Goodell as teammates blast commissioner, NFL". The Star. Toronto. December 13, 2012.
  19. ^ "Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit against Roger Goodell dismissed",, January 17, 2013.
  20. ^ John DeShazier, "Saints defense will have to move ahead without Jonathan Vilma" Archived December 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine,, November 7, 2013.
  21. ^ "New Orleans Saints part ways with Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma" Archived February 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine,, February 12, 2014.
  22. ^ Mike Triplett, "Jonathan Vilma announces retirement, honored by Saints",, December 6, 2015.
  23. ^ "NFL Statistics - 2005". ESPN. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  24. ^ "NFL SUPER STAR Jonathan VILMA Signs With WaterBank of America USA Inc. as Spokesperson for ICEROCKS, Secured Spring Water Ice Cubes". Retrieved February 19, 2009.[dead link]
  25. ^ [1] Archived February 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine