Linebacker Al Wilson, sidelined with a neck injury since the end of the 2006 season, retired from the NFL on Wednesday.
The five-time Pro Bowler played his entire career with Denver, which drafted him out of Tennessee with the 31st overall pick in 1999.
Wilson was the undisputed leader in the locker room for the Broncos.
Wilson has also been credited as being the emotional leader when the Vols won the 1998 national championship.
"I thank all my fans from my high school and college days in Tennessee on into my time in the NFL and Denver for their continued love and support throughout the years," Wilson told jocklife.com. "I was truly blessed to play the game I love and I am forever grateful to those that believed and entrusted in me. Playing for my fans and my teammates made the game of football everything to me."
The 31-year-old Wilson finished his career with 21½ career sacks and five interceptions.
“He meant so much to this organization,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “I really enjoyed all the years he spent with us — hate to see him go. He gave it everything he had every day.”
Wilson hurt his neck running into a teammate on a tackle against Seattle on Dec. 3, 2006. He had to be carted off the field, the crowd giving him an ovation and chanting his name. He was released after the season.
The Cleveland Browns talked with Wilson about returning to the NFL in March, after he was cleared by doctors to resume playing. But talks fell through.
“He was a great player and a great friend,” linebacker D.J. Williams said. “Al loved the game. Not only that, he loved his teammates.”