Former Tennessee and Denver Broncos star Al Wilson is finally taking a water break.
But after 22 years of hard-nosed football, from his youth through UT's 1998 national title and five NFL Pro Bowls, the 31-year-old retired middle linebacker can only stay idle for so long.
Thus, the hatching of the inaugural Al Wilson football "Camp Explosion" in Knoxville on July 9-12 at the Knox County Sports Park at 850 Oak Ridge Highway.
"The way to give back to my fans and the youth in the community is to share my expertise and experience on the defensive side of the ball,'' said Wilson, who now resides in Atlanta. "This keeps me around the game of football.''
Tennessee fans remember few played the game better for the Vols than Wilson, whose effort, intensity and leadership spearheaded Tennessee's march to the 1998 national championship.
Wilson has fond memories of the season, from his 13-tackle, three-forced fumble effort in UT's pivotal 20-17 OT win over Florida, to the one game he missed with a shoulder injury, a hard-fought 17-9 win at Auburn.
"Yeah, for me not to play was very painful ... but the defense had its best game of the season without me on the field,'' Wilson said. "I was the biggest cheerleader on the sideline, and it was a tribute to the character they had.''
Indeed, Wilson stuck his head in the defensive huddles and gave instruction when the offense was on the field, and he jumped up and down waving a towel when the defense took the field.
"I only had one arm,'' Wilson said. "I remember the trainer telling me, 'Al, you've got to stop jumping up and down.'"
Wilson had already proved himself to his teammates.
At the beginning of the 1998 season, Wilson declared 1998 Tennessee to be a team of no stars.
"I remember that vividly,'' Wilson said. "Everything was based around Peyton (Manning, in 1997), and it was well deserved. But it took way from the team aspect of what we did prior to Peyton's senior year.
"So as the leader of the team it was my opportunity to put the focus back on the team. To have a team of no stars that focused on winning games.''
Wilson walked the walk, too, rarely making himself available for media interviews.
When he did speak, he made it clear to reporters it was mandated.
"I don't want to talk to you (expletives),'' he said in one interview. "I hate the media.''
Wilson laughed when reminded of an early-season interview when he was asked about rising star tailback Jamal Lewis, then his roommate.
"If I had stayed over on offense, you wouldn't even know who Jamal Lewis is right now,'' Wilson, also a running back at his Jackson, Tenn., high school, said in 1998.
"Yeah, I used to tell Jamal that all the time,'' Wilson said between laughs. "But obviously he had a very special talent, and he was the best.''
Wilson could say those things because of the immense and unquestionable respect his teammates had for him.
Former UT tight end Neil Johnson once said of Wilson: "Al Wilson was so tough, if he slapped your mother, you'd ask your mother what she did to deserve it.''
Wilson had heard that quote before, and it just makes him shake his head at his youthful days.
"It's crazy, man, I look back on these things now that I'm older, and I say 'There's no way that could've been me,'" Wilson said. "When I'm on that football field, I'm a whole 'nother person. My mother has told me she doesn't recognize me on that field. She says, 'You're a crazy, young man out there.'"
Wilson's former teammates will confirm it: There was no such thing as a non-contact drill if Wilson was involved.
"Dang it Al, this is a non-contact drill! How many times do I have to tell you that!'' former UT defensive coordinator John Chavis yelled more than once during the 1998 practices.
Wilson's Camp Explosion will feature non-contact work for children aged 9 to 13 and 14 to 18, with Wilson and other coaches providing instruction.