Al Wilson delivers keynote speech to Vols

Ex-UT star reminds players to step up to challenge against Gators

Al Wilson flashed a smile and made it clear there's nothing like the feeling he experienced 10 years ago.

Nothing Wilson ever saw in the NFL compared to the emotion of a Tennessee-Florida football game.

"This has always been the pinnacle of UT's season, playing the Florida Gators," the former UT All-American linebacker said after addressing the Vols at their Friday walkthrough. "When I was here, that was the team that really made the difference in our season.

"It's still that way to this day. It's a great rivalry."

Wilson, who retired last week from football after eight NFL seasons and five Pro Bowl years with the Denver Broncos, will be the Legend of the Game when UT plays host to Florida at 3:30 p.m. today.

UT coach Phillip Fulmer couldn't have asked for a better inspirational leader to fire up the Vols.

That was Wilson's forte when UT beat Florida 20-17 in overtime in 1998 en route to a national championship. Apparently, it's still a forte.

"Al Wilson just spoke to our team and you could hear the quiver in his voice and see the brow wrinkle," Fulmer said. "It's an emotional game in a setting like this and in a game as big as this one can be. He's a special guy."

Wilson tried to the let the current Vols understand how the rivalry used to be viewed back in his day.

"I just wanted to give the guys my take on how we felt back in '98 when it was time for us to go out and get the job done," Wilson said. "It was a great feeling just to be in the locker room again."

Wilson had 12 tackles and forced a school-record three fumbles in UT's victory against the Gators in 1998. Just thinking back to that day brought it all flooding back.

"Without a doubt, that game is No. 2 on my all-time list," Wilson said. "Of course No. 1 would be the national championship, but that Florida game was kind of that stairway to get to the national championship.

"Once we got past that one early, we felt pretty good about our chances to do something special."

Tennessee was an underdog that day in '98 and the Vols are underdogs again to the No. 4-ranked Gators.

"That's a tradition of the University of Tennessee, we step up when the challenge requires us to," Wilson said. "Back in '98, we had to step up because nobody gave us a chance and we found a way to get it done.

"For the most part, that's what it is all about. Besides the Super Bowl, which I never had a chance to play in, nothing compares to going out and playing in front of 100,000-plus."

After addressing the team Friday, Wilson said he had a good feeling about the matchup today.

"You know what, I think they're ready," he said. "Every player was looking me in my eyes and I was looking in theirs to see if I could get a read on them.

"Coach Fulmer said they had a great week of practice and I know it will be one of those games a lot of Tennessee fans will remember."

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Comments » 60

FlaVol2 writes:

Way to go Big Al. Kick butt Vols!

rockytoptilidie writes:

Damn - that's all I needed. Hey SAVol - where are you watching the game at tomorrow?

cjraney writes:

He!! yes. That's what I want to hear. Run the ball and hit em in the mouth on D. Make them remember you for the rest of their lives.

wally writes:

I so wish it can be so.......

1982_35_28 writes:

Suit Al up. No one will know it's him. On second thought, he would stand out like a sore thumb. No one else could match his heart and intensity.

ellisonfamily writes:

Anybody think Eric Berry might be able to be the kind of emotional leader Wilson was? No one could duplicate Big Al, but Berry may be able to be that type. And...these types of leaders usually seem to come from the defense.

DennisVols writes:

If Big Al says its so then it is so. He never minced words as a Vol and once a Vol always a Vol.
Thank you Al for all you did as a player and all you do as an inspiration to these Vols.

DennisVols writes:

If Al's speech works then there better be a contract signed for his continued service by Sunday morning

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

I was hoping this would happen... Big Al knows how to fire people up. I hope he makes a pass in the locker room at halftime to. I know Al would make a great coach, I hope we get the chance to bring him in and perhaps do something totally different with Chavis.

CT_VOL writes:

Let us celebrate Al's inspirational words with a little visual of a Gator getting his head crushed!

http://tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/s...

volunteer_cowboy writes:

You can't spell upset without UT. WWL spots a teeny weakness in the Florida offensive line and gives this one to the Vols by the space between two Volunteer Navy yachts tied up on the Tennessee River. Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports.

volunteer_cowboy writes:

Matt Hayes of the sporting news: I don't want to say Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer is in trouble in Knoxville, but that contract extension he recently signed doesn't mean squat. It was, more than anything, a fitting way to honor one of the SEC's best coaches over the last quarter century. I can assure you, folks, it wasn't a vote of confidence. Here's what the $3 million a year extension means: If Fulmer's teams are successful and win championships, he earns his money. If his teams slump further from national relevance, the extension simply is a sincere gesture of gratitude--a big, fat market-protected 401K--for a guy who doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he has accomplished in the meat grinder that is the SEC. Not a bad deal, really.
All that said, this is where the ol' warhorse bows his back and his teams play lights out. This Florida-Tennessee rivalry--the game that, like the Vols, has dipped from national relevance--screams upset. You can have Timmy Terrific; I'll take Phabulous Phil and his old style "Pound the Rock" mantra against an overrated Florida run defense.

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

that'a boy Al!

bluetick writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

A great motivator and nice column and you get someone to start off with a negative.. What an @ss!

bluetick writes:

in response to volunteer_cowboy:

Matt Hayes of the sporting news: I don't want to say Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer is in trouble in Knoxville, but that contract extension he recently signed doesn't mean squat. It was, more than anything, a fitting way to honor one of the SEC's best coaches over the last quarter century. I can assure you, folks, it wasn't a vote of confidence. Here's what the $3 million a year extension means: If Fulmer's teams are successful and win championships, he earns his money. If his teams slump further from national relevance, the extension simply is a sincere gesture of gratitude--a big, fat market-protected 401K--for a guy who doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he has accomplished in the meat grinder that is the SEC. Not a bad deal, really.
All that said, this is where the ol' warhorse bows his back and his teams play lights out. This Florida-Tennessee rivalry--the game that, like the Vols, has dipped from national relevance--screams upset. You can have Timmy Terrific; I'll take Phabulous Phil and his old style "Pound the Rock" mantra against an overrated Florida run defense.

Nice post Cowboy! Thanks for sharing.

conchybong writes:

Good luck,your longest run in the past two games is six whole yards.Gators by 17

tenuscvol writes:

I'd sure love to have been in that meeting!...Al was key to that NC and I'm sure his talk will have a very positive effect on the guys. Will it be enough?...No fumbles!..with some resemblence of an offense?...probably still Florida by 10 or 13 or so....My best guess...But I also believe there is a decent chance the Vols could win (say 20-30%) so lets hope things go our way and the Gators cough up a few and...maybe....????

GoVols!

OrangeAppeal writes:

UT plays its best when everyone counts them out. I like UT in this game. Having big Al in the locker room will be especially nice at halftime.

orangecountry21 writes:

Let's hope Wilson can say something to get these guys going.

not_on_the_rug_man writes:

I feel like ripping someone's head off. I hope to the great Lord above Al is in the locker room and sideline tommorow and after he inspires this team to victory we can find him a position on the staff. WELCOME BACK HOME AL!

eaglessk#458162 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

MrBamSeydu writes:

HIRE AL WILSON!!!!!!!

caskew#218608 writes:

Has anyone had any interactions with Florida fans that have made it into Knoxville yet? How are they feeling about the game? I'm sure the majority think they'll win by 3+ TDs.

cdonsbach writes:

Buy your towels tomorrow, buy extras so that if you see a fan without a towel they'll have one.
Everyone go nuts and yell at the top of your lungs and DON'T EVER STOP! The team needs us to create a REAL home-field advantage, the team doesn't need 100,00+ sitting down quietly observing the game.
LET'S GO UT
GO VOLS GO!

el_duderino writes:

please be right, we need this game so bad

khawk writes:

I was just thinking how this game is the biggest game these young men probably has played in in their lives. Al Wilson will always be remembered for his intensity. No one could give them a better prep talk tham him. GO VOLS!!

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Need to give it up long and loud for Mr.Wilson at halftime. what a special man. bonzaivol

GoodOleRockyFlop writes:

Prediction: Vols 10 Gators 38

MidTennVol writes:

Al, I sure hope you're in the locker room before kickoff, on the sidelines, and back in the locker room at halftime.

I hope they ask you to run through the T before the team.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Hopefully, Al Wilson's words will motivate the Vols.

If quarterback Jonathon Crompton does not screw this up with more interceptions---so far he has thrown at least one in each game he has played this year---

and would have thrown two in each of the two games, had it not been for a super effort by a receiver that wound up in a catch...and also another Crompton errant pass that a LB dropped, both versus UAB ---

Phillip Fulmer's offense may well win the game. Fulmer's version of football wins games, when he has good talent in orange uniforms.

Lately he has had a much publicized new Offensive Coordinator and offensive playbook and strategy---but fumbling RB's, iffy wide receivers, an offensive line that does not run block well---and is porous in pass blockingm, which was the staple of the Offense last year...

and a quarterback who grew up near Heath Shuler, but plays more like Shuler's little brother Benjy, in the (thus far) over-rated Crompton.

And so far, David Clausen's offense leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. It has not been as good as the offenses of Fulmer's tenure as OC, much less as good as David Cutcliffe's offenses.

Perhaps the Vols can change ALL of that today if they want to enough. Otherwise, Auburn is licking it's chops, waiting.

MustangPackage101 writes:

If Al Wilson cant get you fired up.. you probably don't have a pulse. GO VOLS!!

BahamaVol writes:

HAPPY GAME DAY!!! May your meat already be on the smoker and the ice in your first brown drink already melted! GO VOLS!!!!

Volnut writes:

Al, was a great one for sure, but let's get Steve Kiner in there with Al and show these boys what intensity is all about and pumped up. I believe these two players who have worn the Orange to the fullest can get our boys up for 60 mins but then again, having played college ball, If you need someone to get you up to playing a ball game something is wrong.

Coaches motivate players and it's something that has to be done for certain athletes but once again if you have to have some one pump you for a game then you're not into the experience to begin with. Every game should and does pump the players up and if you need a coach to set you in the mood to play then you should pick another sport.

Mind you I played in the 80's during the time of multi scholarships and it was easy to hold an advantage over schools and you made the most of your playing time and if you had to rely on a coach to pump you up for a game then you had no business playing in the 1st place. Having said that, if our boys in orange can't get up for 60 mins against UF this Sat then they are missing out on a pure and simple fact that they represent their school and the pride of belonging to a school with rich tradition and for that, they should give their all to Tennessee on EVERY play.

Volnut writes:

For those of you too young to rem Steve Kiner,he was a monster at LB and I can still to this day rem watching The Bear walking off the field after a UT win with his arm around Steve.

As the Bear said Steve was the best athlete he ever coached against. And for a man of that stature that's saying something.

Steve gave his all for UT as did Al and if we have players today doing the same then the UF game is in the bag.

txvolsfan writes:

I'll never forget Al's speech before the Florida game in 98 when he told everyone in the locker room,
"Anyone who doesn't leave it all on the field today, will have to answer to ME!" and everybody knew he meant it.
Nobody wants to answer to big Al.
GO VOLS
LET'S TURN THIS THING AROUND
TXVOLSFAN

Volnut writes:

I watched the 98 game on ESPNClassic today at 1:00pm today and it was GREAT. Seeing our boys playing ball to their upmost was beyond words. I give my all to Tennessee today was well represented in that game.

Let's hope they rem those words today!!!!!!!!!

volunteer_cowboy writes:

TENNESSEAN: Fulmers 15-year record against second-tier SEC East teams Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Kentucky is 43-2. The game has changed. Fulmer's coaching resumé was padded when the SEC coaching landscape was much different. He beat up on Georgia's Ray Goff and Jim Donnan, both in recruiting and on the field. He had Mike DuBose's number when he headed the program at Alabama. Against the current SEC coaching competition, Fulmer's record is just 28-26. And in matchups with the five SEC coaches who have won national championships or had an unbeaten season — Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier and Tommy Tuberville — Fulmer is a combined 10-19.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Strange things happen in big games, sometimes.

We need several breaks today, i.e. Gator turnovers and dropped passes.

On paper, we don't match up real well in some areas (playing off 8 yards, go for FGs, etc.), but maybe the man upstairs will smile on us today.

We'll see.

Soon.....

sevenmaxims#354995 writes:

Thanks , Al

OldNumber7 writes:

Bluetick, I take serious issue with Matt Hayes writeup. All these years that Fulmer was in "the meatgrinder that is the SEC"...the SEC was only Florida and Tennessee !!...AND TENNESSEE LOST ALL THE TIME TO FLORIDA !!! IN EMBARRASING FASHION !!! I remember a setup just like today's game in the mid 90's and watched Florida shut Tennessee out...AT HOME!! Now that the SEC has finally become a pinnacle conference (in last decade), Tennessee is a door mat! Why does that deserve accolades? That article is ridiculous. The only facts I have just typed.

I hope Tennessee rises again to top-of-the-SEC prominence under Fulmer. But the record of Chavis/Fulmer bringing a quality, competitive team to the field week in and out is not very good in last 10 years as the quality of this conference has risen.

FeelVol writes:

Come on guys lets play poised and with an objective in mind,just take care of buisness today.Time for our leaders to step up which I believe they will.Play smart and determined.Go Vols.

hufstedler02 writes:

I agree that Al is a great motivator, but motivation speeches don't win games, players do. I think UT will win this game, and if they do, I want to know if Fulmer gets a week off from all of you fans that make us look bad. You guys say that a loss hurts recruiting right. Guess what, recruits read these posts too. You guys think they want to come to a place where the team is always getting put down, even after a win. I don't think so.

CrankE writes:

Al to troops: "And if you guys go out there and screw it up, I'll beat every one of you to a pulp"

HIRE AL WILSON!!! WILSON '08!

CRFVols writes:

Give Al some pads and a helmet and get him on the field!!

OrangeRush writes:

God bless Al Wilson and God bless the Vols.I'm fired up and ready to MAKE SOME NOISE today! GO VOLS!

TommyJack writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Strange things happen in big games, sometimes.

We need several breaks today, i.e. Gator turnovers and dropped passes.

On paper, we don't match up real well in some areas (playing off 8 yards, go for FGs, etc.), but maybe the man upstairs will smile on us today.

We'll see.

Soon.....

No more beat downs.

rockytop4ever writes:

This is the best thing UT could have done this week. Welcome back Al. I have a good feeling deep inside about today. I dont get to go to the game but I wanna feel that stadium shaking from west knox! Get loud people! And put Teabag on back early please. Go Vols!!!!

Smokey91 writes:

You can't talk about Kiner without mentioning Hacksaw Reynolds. Both of those guys could bring it. They came out of the era when UT was becoming know as Linebacker U. Al belongs in that group, along with Andy Spiva, Ray Nettles, Dale Jones, Paul Naumoff, and others that I can't remember just now. We used to have some heavy htters on defense. Rico, your time to shine pal.

LanceR24 writes:

man can we make up an coaching position just for him, there is not much more i would like than to have al roaming the sidelines every week. he is one of my favorite vols of all time.

SemperVol writes:

Gameday!!!!

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