Tennessee football: Al Wilson named to CFB Hall of Fame Class of 2021

The former Tennessee football Volunteers linebacker is a member of the Class of 2021.

One of the greatest leaders in Tennessee football history is now one of the most well-deserved members among college football’s elite. His recognition should have come much sooner than it did, but late is better than never.

Al Wilson was announced as part of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021. There were 13 members in this year’s class, including 11 players and two head coaches.

With Wilson’s induction, Tennessee football now has 25 members overall in the Hall of Fame, 21 of whom went in as players and four of whom went in as coaches. The most recent member was Peyton Manning in the 2017 class.

A four-year linebacker with the Vols from 1995 to 1998, Wilson was part of what was by far the most successful four-year run in the modern era of UT history. He helped the Vols to a 45-5 record, four straight 10-plus win seasons, four straight top 10 finishes, back to back SEC Championships and a national championship in 1998.

Individually, Wilson had 272 career tackles. He earned back to back First Team All-SEC honors in 1997 and 1998 and was a Consensus All-American in 1998, coming away with 77 tackles despite missing three games.

In arguably the greatest defensive performance in Rocky Top’s history, Wilson forced three fumbles and came away with 12 tackles as the Vols beat the No. 2 ranked Florida Gators 20-17 in overtime that year. That win snapped what was a five-game losing streak to Steve Spurrier’s program at the time.

Manning and Wilson were teammates from 1995 to 1997. In 1998, though, with Manning and Leonard Little graduating, Wilson took on a larger role as the team leader and earned his place in history as one of the greatest Vols of all time.

After college, Wilson enjoyed an eight-year NFL career with the Denver Broncos, where he was a four-time Pro Bowler and earned two All-Pro recognitions. However, a severe neck injury in December of 2006 eventually led to his early retirement. He still remains one of Tennessee football’s greatest players and an example of UT’s greatness in college and the pros.