American Football Database
Jonathan Vilma
File:Jonathan Vilma Tulane Commencement 2010.jpg
Vilma at the 2010 Tulane University commencement ceremony
No. 51     New Orleans Saints
Personal information
Date of birth: (1982-04-16) April 16, 1982 (age 40)
Place of birth: Coral Gables, Florida
High School: Coral Gables (FL)
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Weight: 230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
College: Miami (FL)
NFL Draft: 2004 / Round: 1 / Pick: 12
Debuted in 2004 for the New York Jets
Career history
* New York Jets ( 2004 2007)
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
* AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2004)
Career NFL statistics as of Week 17, 2012
Tackles     870
Quarterback sacks     10.5
Interceptions     12
Forced fumbles     11

Jonathan Polynice Vilma (born April 16, 1982) is an American football linebacker for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Miami, and was selected by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

Early years

Vilma was born in Coral Gables, Florida to Haitian immigrant parents.[1][2] He attended Coral Gables High School where he was a teammate of Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore.

University of Miami

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 the team 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 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


  • 4.65 40 Yard Dash
  • 37 Inch Vertical
  • 23 Bench Reps
  • 6.67 Three-Cone Drill
  • 4.20 Short Shuttle
  • 10-foot-1 Broad Jump

New York Jets

Vilma was drafted by the Jets with the 12th selection in the 2004 NFL Draft.


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, including one 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.[3] Vilma was diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in high school, a bone defect that can cause instability and loose particles in the joint, and this is a possible cause behind his season-ending injury in 2007.[4]

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.

On February 27, 2009, Vilma signed a five-year, 34 million-dollar contract with the New Orleans Saints.[5]

On February 7, 2010, Vilma and the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts to become Super Bowl XLIV Champions. Vilma made a key defensive audible and deflected a pass on 3rd and 11 in the fourth quarter to lead the Saints to their victory.

In the first game of the season, Jonathan Vilma intercepted a pass from Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. The Saints later won the game 14–9.

Bounty scandal

Vilma was allegedly a central figure in the so-called New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, in which the NFL alleges he and several of his defensive teammates, and then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams operated a pool which paid out "bounties" for deliberately trying to knock opposing players out of games. According to the league, Vilma offered $10,000 cash to anyone who knocked Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Favre took a severe beating during that game, and was even forced out for one play with an ankle injury. Although as many as 27 Saints players were alleged to be involved, Vilma was the only player who was initially singled out by the league for his role.[6][7]

On May 2, 2012, the NFL suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season for his alleged role in the bounty program. The league claims that he and defensive end Will Smith helped Williams start the program in 2009. He will not be eligible for reinstatement until the end of Super Bowl XLVII.[8] Vilma first found out about the suspension when it was announced on SportsCenter. He almost immediately announced that he would appeal, calling the suspension an "injustice" and adamantly denying that he was involved in any sort of bounty scheme.[9] Since the initial sentencing by the NFL, Vilma has brought a personal slander suit against Roger Goodell. [10] If his suspension is upheld on appeal, it will 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.

Most of the players who were the targets of questionable hits by the Saints, including Favre and Warner, claimed the bounties were merely part of the game.[11] However, several former players interviewed by Sports Illustrated said that while payments for good hits and sacks were indeed considered part of the game, bounties for intentionally injuring opponents violated an unwritten code.

However on July 26, Vilma and seven witnesses from the Saints testified in front of a federal judge in New Orleans that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell got his facts wrong in the bounty scandal."Everybody was sworn in under oath in front of a judge with the risk of perjury and jail time if we were lying, and categorically denied there was a bounty," Vilma said in a text message to ESPN's Ed Werder. "Seven people testified, 2 sworn affidavits (one by Drew Brees) all saying the same thing. I ask that you and ESPN report the facts. No more bias or b.s. or hearsay. I gave you facts that you can report if so choose." [12] Tulane University Sports Law Program Director Gabe Feldman (who attended the hearing in court) said, "Clearly the judge, by her questions, indicated she thinks Goodell overstepped his authority, and this case was always going to be about if he executed his power fairly... The NFL's retort is that with all due deference, you don't get to second guess (commissioner Roger Goodell). Judges only have limited jurisdiction over arbitration issues." [13]

On September 7, Vilma's suspension was completely overturned and he was reinstated for the 2012 season.[14] The Associated Press then reported Roger Goodell's disappointment in the determination of the arbitration board's ruling. Vilma met with Roger Goodell on September 17th to discuss allegations.

On October 9, 2012, four weeks and three days after an internal appeals panel vacated suspensions imposed on Vilma, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, Saints defensive end Will Smith, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove, the league has again suspended the four Saints players, according to a league source. Vilma's suspension remained as the entire 2012 season, although he can keep his paychecks for the first six weeks of the season when he was on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Fujita's suspension was reduced from four games to three games, Smith will be suspended four games, and Hargrove had his suspension reduced from 8 games to 7 games. Hargrove also received credit of 5 games served since he is not currently signed with any team. If he is signed by a team, he will have to serve the remaining two games.[15]

On December 11, 2012, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overruled Roger Goodell's punishments and vacated the suspensions of all the players involved in the alleged bounty scandal. Jonathan Vilma claimed he would continue to pursue his defamation law suit against commissioner Goodell. After Tagliabue's ruling to eliminate Goodell's suspensions, Vilma's teammate and co-captain Will Smith stated, “People actually think that we actually went out and did this, and we didn’t do this,” Smith said of the bounty program, adding that he had not decided whether to pursue any defamation claims of his own.“The only thing that was going on was a pay-for-performance that pretty much every other team in the league has and have had for years. That was it. I never participate in a bounty or put money down to injure another player or encourage other guys to injure other players.” [16]

Career statistics

Year Team G Tackles Solo Ast Sacks INT INT YDS FF FR PD TD
2004 New York Jets 16 107 77 30 2 3 58 0 1 2 1
2005 New York Jets 16 1691 124 45 0.5 1 1 4 1 5 0
2006 New York Jets 16 114 67 47 0 1 0 1 1 4 0
2007 New York Jets 7 43 32 11 0 1 1 0 0 3 0
2008 New Orleans Saints 16 132 98 34 1 1 8 2 3 6 0
2009 New Orleans Saints 15 110 87 23 2 3 25 0 0 8 0
2010 New Orleans Saints 16 105 71 34 4 1 5 3 1 3 0
2011 New Orleans Saints 11 54 36 18 0 0 0 1 3 2 1
Totals 113 833 591 242 9.5 11 98 11 10 33 2

1NFL Leader (2005)[17]

Personal life

Vilma is a spokesman for Under Armour and WaterBank of America USA Inc.[18]

On March 31, 2009 two Liberian men were killed in a Long Island condominium owned by Vilma. Police believe that the victims may have been part of a black money scam, where the perpetrators claim that cash smuggled from overseas—stained black to avoid detection—can be purchased at a discount; in reality, what they offer is a trunk full of worthless paper. Vilma is not considered a suspect.[19]

Vilma's parents, Fritz Vilma and Nelly Banatte, immigrated to the United States from Haiti in the 1970s. After the 2010 earthquake, he was active in relief efforts.[20]

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


  1. "Jonathan Vilma". NFL. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  2. Corbett, Jim (January 21, 2010). "Once castoffs, Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma fueling Saints". USA Today. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  3. "Chicago Sun Times".,CST-SPT-nflnt28.article. Retrieved 2007-10-28.[dead link]
  4. Litsky, Frank (2007-11-14). "Jets’ Vilma Speaks, a Little, About His Knee and Surgery". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
  5. "Saints reach agreement with Vilma -". 2009-02-27. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
  6. Judge, Clark (2012-03-02). "Saints, team officials involved in bounty program should pay dearly".
  7. "NFL announces management discipline in Saints' 'bounty' matter". National Football League. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  9. "Jonathan Vilma banned one year". ESPN. 2012-05-02.
  10. "Vilma lawsuit puts Goodell on the run". Foxsports. 2012-05-22.
  11. Perez, A. J. (2012-03-09). "Bounty issue could be NFL legal problem". Fox Sports.
  12. Vilma awaits decision
  13. title=New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma does not receive restraining order
  14. "Saints player bounty suspensions overturned on appeal". Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  15. Brooks, Matt. "Report: NFL re-issues bounty suspensions for Saints players". The Washington Times. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  17. "NFL Statistics - 2005". ESPN. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  18. [1][dead link]
  19. "Two slain at Vilma-owned condo".
  20. [2][dead link]

External links