Al Wilson returning to Knoxville with a bang

Ex-Vol transitions to sidelines with 'Camp Explosion'

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.

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Comments » 60

movol53 writes:

THANKS AL!!! For all you have done for TENNESSEE.
And Thanks for "giving back" to the community.
Now get out there and start developing some Volunteer defensive stars of the Future!

atomicvet62 writes:

Best of luck Al,you will always be one of of the best to ever play at Tennessee.
Go Big Orange,Go Vols

Voluvr writes:

Al, put on your visor and whistle. Let's go.

kiffownsfla writes:

Thats a true vol ! would of been fun to see him at tailback some he would have been better than jamal. didnt like him he stopped putting out for fear of injury.

TNisPeerless writes:

in response to HBKGault:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY (Despite my moniker)!

DennisVols writes:

Al Wilson should be hired as UT's Attitude Coach

DennisVols writes:

in response to Vol_RobE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't forget the preacher, the Great Reggie White

richvol writes:

Coach Fulmer was speaking one evening to a group I was hosting and towards the end of his talk someone asked him who might surprise us with their contributions in the coming season. Without pausing for even a moment he responded that a young freshman named Al Wilson was going to make a mark on tennessee football during his four years here. Fulmer said that he was a special player that comes along only so often. He was right...

kiffownsfla writes:

in response to richvol:

Coach Fulmer was speaking one evening to a group I was hosting and towards the end of his talk someone asked him who might surprise us with their contributions in the coming season. Without pausing for even a moment he responded that a young freshman named Al Wilson was going to make a mark on tennessee football during his four years here. Fulmer said that he was a special player that comes along only so often. He was right...

Yes rich he was. GO VOLS!

Hacksaw57 writes:

Somehow, someway. Coach Kiff-- GET AL WILSON ON THE SIDELINES! PLEASE, COACH!

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

in response to Vol_RobE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How about Reggie White?

gnm53108 writes:

in response to Hacksaw57:

Somehow, someway. Coach Kiff-- GET AL WILSON ON THE SIDELINES! PLEASE, COACH!

Yes!

MrKnoxville writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree...can you imagine being at a practice having him jump all over you barking instructions in one ear and Coach O with a fresh Red Bull in his system in your other ear...LOL...you would never be out of position or miss a tackle with the 2 of them jumping your dookie on every play....I bet he would be a h3ll of a recruiter too!

Lean_and_Hungry writes:

Screw the "retired number guidelines," #27 will always be Al Wilson

BillsBrother writes:

in response to Vol_RobE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Unfortunately, only Al has been a true role model.

The others have all had more than their share of trouble in "the league".

Even ol "not naffy" should be able to figure out one or more former Vols that have done more.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to Lean_and_Hungry:

Screw the "retired number guidelines," #27 will always be Al Wilson

While I hold Al in the highest reguard,I agree with retiring only those five we lost in WWII.Those were the ultimate Volunteers.

notoriousBIGorange writes:

Al Wilson was a baaaad MF. I'm just sayin.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to BillsBrother:

Unfortunately, only Al has been a true role model.

The others have all had more than their share of trouble in "the league".

Even ol "not naffy" should be able to figure out one or more former Vols that have done more.

He's just throwing out bait.

Not bad,he got a few bites.

RJ_Vol writes:

Al Wilson's diving, mid-air sack is what I remember against UF. I believe CBS lost its goal post camera due to the festivities afterwards. I was horse for three weeks after that game...and I "speak" for a living which made it tough. But it was worth it. What a ride! He is part of the long tradition and storied history that is Tennessee football.

BillsBrother writes:

Other BIG BANG Volunteers
Doug Atkins - his number is hanging in the stadium.
Steve DeLong - Outland Trophy winner
Reggie White - The Minister of Defense
1985 Volunteer "D" - tough bunch of over achievers
Dale Carter - he hurt opponents in many ways
Deon Grant - see Dale Carter
Raynoch Thompson - Small linebacker frame, big hitter
Eric Berry - Good enough to be Thunder and Lightning

BigOrangeVol writes:

We miss you Aldra! Please leave the ATL and come home to stay!!!

I concur, A.K. Wilson on our staff or even on our sidelines without question would mean W's.

Al wasn't kidding about running the rock either. 1,160 yards and 15 TD's his Senior season at JCM and three 1,000 yard rushing seasons in a row ain't nothin' to sneeze at boys!

Just 9 more years to wait until we sign Carrington Demond Wilson to follow in his Daddy's footsteps.

n2thecheckerboards2 writes:

D*mn i love being a Volunteer.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to n2thecheckerboards2:

D*mn i love being a Volunteer.

Me too n2,me too.

Almost makes you feel sorry for everybody else.

Almost.

higgman55 writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Lawd how mercy son, how right you are! Big Al is the bedrock of our 98 memories! Remember when he exploded in the locker room in the 98 SEC game, he got the blood up, to win that game! I would love to see Big Al rooting the new kids on, from the side lines! Just think of the intensity he would bring to our team! Go Big Al, Go VOLS!!

cltvol writes:

If Al Wilson told Jack Bauer to jump, Jack would call Cloie to analyze the infrastructure grid and see which bridge he could jump off that would please Al the most.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

The stare when the QB went under center.

Bring it!

dvhill100 writes:

Probably the player the most fun to watch, even on the sideline. His picture is next to the definition of intensity.

vol4good#206163 writes:

in response to Vol_RobE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How bout, Reggie White, Willie Gault, Bill Bates, Stanley Morgan, Chad Clifton... Help me out fellas

givehim6 writes:

Al Wilson needs a street named after him also.

give_him_6 writes:

Congrats Al...glad to see you back in Knoxville doing what you love to do!! Those kids will really appreciate you man. and now Coach Kiff...YOU HAD BETTER HIRE THIS MAN!!!

agentorange writes:

in response to DennisVols:

Al Wilson should be hired as UT's Attitude Coach

amen to that. If any Vol should be honored with street namings, wax figures and all that phooey, it's al wilson. hamilton is too damn stupid to realize it.

Mr_Brownstone writes:

Al Wilson was and always will be the MAN!

Bass_Vol_1998 writes:

Back in 98 there was a poster (blown up photo) of Al standing over Cade Mcnown while cade was puking. It was up in Glocker or some other building I can't remember. UCLA was also undefeated, so it made it extra cool.

Irwin_Linker writes:

Hands down my favorite UT player/alum. I wish UT would hire him in some capacity. Certainly would not hurt.

mattfriedman58#226364 writes:

I agree with everyone here about CLK hiring Wilson. It would be a HUGE PR move with the VOL nation, not to mention his energy and enthusiasm in the locker room would be one of those intangibles that couldn’t be ignored. You also have to figure that someone with his positive energy, intensity, and experience would ultimately make a great recruiter!

cmoore7 writes:

When the announcement was made that John Ward and Bill Anderson would be retiring after the season, John and Bill were requested to lead the final Vol Walk. Being the consumate professionals and humble men that they were, they refused. After all, this was a team of destiny and John and Bill knew not to so much as interfere with even the pregame rituals. When captain Al Wilson called into their midweek show and asked if they would lead, they relented.

-Excerpt from Decade of Dominance, as narrated by Fred Thompson

lildhoss76ut#638162 writes:

Al Wilson the original Gator slayer!

Bigger_Al writes:

Al Wilson rocks! And, he hates John Adams!

GreenDevilVol writes:

Wouldnt Al be a GREAT S&C man ?? Then have Al come to practice and have his attitude roaming the sidelines !!

WOW !!!

ps11824 writes:

Seems like Big Al would be an asset to the Volunteers. I don't find or recall any prior criminal activities involving this young professional. His mama taught him well. We could certainly use a strong spiritual leader on and off the field in Ktown, don't y'all agree?

stinky_pinky writes:

Big Al...

what a freak of a player.

i bought my kid a #27 jersey last year when arian foster was popular and he asked me who #27 was....my response, "Al Wilson bud..."

kjneel#238751 writes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuycAZ...

Remeber how BAD they were? I love the hit by #27 on the FL offensive lineman on the run back. BAMM!

newtonrail writes:

in response to Vol_RobE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Naffy, naffy, enough said.

orangeinbama writes:

in response to vol4good#206163:

How bout, Reggie White, Willie Gault, Bill Bates, Stanley Morgan, Chad Clifton... Help me out fellas

Roland James. Not the biggest hitter, but Probably the best I have ever seen in making a tackle in the open field.

allvol9 writes:

One of my all time favorite Vols for sure! Glad to see #27 involved in Knoxville again.

AlWilsonisGod writes:

This may be the greatest article I have ever read on thi site!!

n2thecheckerboards2 writes:

in response to gnm53108:

Me too n2,me too.

Almost makes you feel sorry for everybody else.

Almost.

yeah, it really does lol.

duececlub writes:

As crazy as Al Wilson was, you can not forget the other crazy Azz Backer he had running with him that year. Raynoch Thompson. That mofo was diving on top of piles, plenty of late hits, out of bounds no less, on qb's, rb's and receivers. I loved watching those two play the position.

old_number1 writes:

in response to cmoore7:

When the announcement was made that John Ward and Bill Anderson would be retiring after the season, John and Bill were requested to lead the final Vol Walk. Being the consumate professionals and humble men that they were, they refused. After all, this was a team of destiny and John and Bill knew not to so much as interfere with even the pregame rituals. When captain Al Wilson called into their midweek show and asked if they would lead, they relented.

-Excerpt from Decade of Dominance, as narrated by Fred Thompson

Great post cmoore. This shows what years of tradition lead to.

Are there any people out there with more class than John Ward, Bill Anderson, and Al Wilson!!! I feel that UT helped to shape each of the three.

I believe that John made a $1,000,000 contributon to UT apon his retirement. And with that commitment, the difference that traditon makes becomes apparent.

I say to all the Johnny come lately programs, you should take a lesson!!

illinoisvolfan writes:

The narratied highlights from the '98 Florida game referred to Al Wilson as a "one-man force of destruction." I think that could have described his entire career at Tennessee. From one native West Tennesseean to another, thanks for the memories #27.

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