The following story was originally published on utsports.com.
IRVING, Texas - Al Wilson, one of the most decorated defensive players in Tennessee history, has been named to the illustrious 2021 College Football Hall of Fame Class, the National Football Foundation (NFF) announced Monday prior to the national championship game.
Wilson, who led the Volunteers to their sixth national championship in 1998, will officially be inducted with the 2021 and 2020 classes during the 63rd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 7. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19.
"It's truly a blessing to be considered one of the best to play the game at the collegiate level," said Wilson. "To my teammates, coaches and all of Vol Nation, this is our award!"
Wilson is one of 11 first-team All-America players being inducted in 2021 along with two standout coaches - Rudy Hubbard (Florida A&M) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma).
Wilson becomes the 25th Vol to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame and first since Peyton Manning in 2017. Of the 25 inductees, 21 were enshrined as players and four as coaches. The 25 inductees are the most in the SEC and sixth-most nationally.
"I am so proud of Al Wilson being selected into the College Football Hall of Fame," said Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer, a 2012 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and Wilson's former coach. "He is so deserving, not only for the passion and effort he played with but for his leadership as captain of our 1998 national championship team.
"Al was the epitome of a competitor. He knew the importance of preparation to be great, and he influenced others to follow his lead during the offseason, spring practice, summer workouts and certainly through the fall of that wonderful 1998 season. He was the ultimate teammate and respected by everyone for his dedication, hard work, love of the game and physical play. He found a way to connect personally with everyone on the team on and off the field."
Wilson was a consensus first-team All-American in 1998 from the perfect 13-0 Vols squad that won the inaugural BCS National Championship at the Fiesta Bowl against Florida State. He also guided Tennessee to three other bowl games, including consecutive wins at the Citrus Bowl in 1996 and 1997. During his career in Knoxville, Wilson led the Vols to back-to-back Southeastern Conference titles (1997, 1998) and four top 10 finishes (No. 3 in 1995, No. 9 in 1996, No. 7 in 1997 and No. 1 in 1998).
A finalist for the 1998 Nagurski Trophy, Wilson earned first-team All-SEC honors as a senior and second team all-conference laurels as a junior while losing only three conference games in four years. The 1998 team captain posted 12 tackles and a school-record three forced fumbles in the Vols' win over No. 6 Florida that season. The heart of the UT defense, the linebacker tallied 77 tackles during the 1998 undefeated season despite missing three games to injury.
A 1999 Senior Bowl participant, Wilson finished his stellar career with 272 total tackles. The Jackson, Tennessee, native was enshrined in the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016 and the state of Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
A first-round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 1999 NFL Draft, Wilson was a five-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the team from 1999-2006.
Wilson co-founded Project FANchise, which previously established the first-ever fan-controlled professional sports franchise, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, and operated the Colorado Crush to play in the Indoor Football League. Off the field, he has annually hosted children's football camps and resides in Atlanta.
2021 College Football Hall of Fame Class
Harris Barton - OT, North Carolina (1983-86)
David Fulcher - DB, Arizona State (1983-85)
Rudy Hubbard - Head Coach, Florida A&M (1974-85)
Dan Morgan - LB, Miami (Fla.) (1997-2000)
Carson Palmer - QB, Southern Cal (1998-2002)
Tony Romo - QB, Eastern Illinois (1999-2002)
Kenneth Sims - DT, Texas (1978-81)
C.J. Spiller - RB/KR, Clemson (2006-09)
Darren Sproles - RB, Kansas State (2001-04)
Bob Stoops - Head Coach, Oklahoma (1999-2016)
Aaron Taylor - OT, Notre Dame (1990-93)
Andre Tippett - DE, Iowa (1979-81)
Al Wilson - LB, Tennessee (1995-98)
Tennessee All-Time College Football Hall of Famers (year inducted)
Doug Atkins, T (1985)
George Cafego, QB (1969)
Steve DeLong, G (1993)
Doug Dickey, Coach (2003)
Bobby Dodd, QB (1959)
Nathan Dougherty, T (1967)
Frank Emanuel, LB (2004)
Beattie Feathers, B (1955)
Phillip Fulmer, Coach (2012)
Herman Hickman, G (1959)
Bob Johnson, C (1989)
Chip Kell, G (2006)
Steve Kiner, LB (1999)
Hank Lauricella, TB (1981)
Johnny Majors, TB (1987)
Peyton Manning, QB (2017)
Gene McEver, HB (1954)
John Michels, G (1996)
Ed Molinski, G (1990)
Robert R. Neyland, Coach (1956)
Bob Suffridge, G (1961)
Reggie White, DT (2002)
Al Wilson, LB (2021)
Bowden Wyatt, E (1972)
Bowden Wyatt, Coach (1997)