As one of the captains of the 1998 National Championship team, Al Wilson is one of the most beloved players to ever suit up for the Vols. Wilson is arguably one of the best middle linebackers to ever play in the SEC, and he was one of the most pivotal pieces of the Vols’ success in the late 1990s. Wilson did everything for Tennessee, totaling 272 tackles, 11 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, forced eight fumbles, broke up 10 passes, and picked off two passes in his Vol career. Wilson would go on to have an impressive NFL career as well, being selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his eight year career.
Although Leonard Little would eventually play exclusively at defensive end in the NFL, he played both linebacker and end for the Vols. And he excelled at both. Little holds the school record for most tackles for loss in a season with 25 and in a career with 53. His 28 sacks in a career are the third-most for a Vol and his 11 sacks in his sophomore year in 1995 are tied for the fifth-most in a single season in Tennessee history. Little was an All-American and a co-Defensive Player of the Year in 1997, and he’s one of the best athletes to play at Tennessee.
Though most younger Vol fans won’t know who Steve Kiner is, their parents and grandparents likely do. Kiner was one of the best linebackers in college football in the late 1960s, winning the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award in 1969 and earning All-American status twice in 1968 and 1969. Kiner was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and he was a stalwart of Doug Dickey’s defense in the late 60s. Kiner led the Vols in tackles both his junior and senior seasons and finished with nine interceptions for his career. He also finished ninth in the Heisman voting in 1969.
I would have included Bob Suffridge at OL, Dewey Warren at QB, Jack Reynolds/Jackie Walker at LB and Curt Watson at RB but that’s just me.