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Heupel Praises Al Wilson Before Saturday’s Ceremony

Tennessee Al Wilson
11/14/98 Vols Al Wilson cheers to the crowd after Tennessee pulls off the win in the final seconds of the game. Photo/Byron E. Small.

If you look closely at the wall that surrounds Neyland Stadium, you’ll see that a few new additions have made their way in. On each 27-yard line on the field, there is a plaque on the wall honoring VFL Al Wilson. And on Saturday afternoon, Tennessee will host Wilson in his return to Rocky Top for a very special celebration.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee Athletics sent out a press release detailing Wilson’s ceremony.

“The University of Tennessee and The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced today that they will jointly honor 2021 College Football Hall of Fame electee Al Wilson with an NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute, presented by Fidelity Investments,” the release from Tennessee stated. “The Salute will take place at halftime this Saturday, Oct. 9, during the Vols’ home football game against South Carolina.”

During the week, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel spoke about Al Wilson and his impact on Tennessee. In fact, he spoke about it on Monday and Thursday during both of his weekly press conference meetings.

Tennessee Al Wilson
Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel talking about VFL Al Wilson on Thursday.

“It’s a unique opportunity for us, fans and as a program, to honor one of the greats who have come through here too, Al Wilson, on Saturday,” Heupel said on Monday. “Being able to recognize him going into the College Football Hall of Fame this year, a day that’s designated towards him. Just in the short time of me being here, getting an opportunity to know him, his passion, his care for this program is real. His impact as a player obviously was real.”

With Wilson around the program this week, Heupel also spoke about the mentorship side of things for the players. And of course, with someone as well-known as Al Wilson around Tennessee, there are always going to be stories that follow.

“Love nothing more than hearing some of the stories of him as a great leader and obviously a great player inside of our program while he was here,” Heupel said. “Listening to a bunch of his teammates in particular, as guys came back in spring football—might’ve been around the spring football game—just getting a chance to hear those guys.”

On Thursday, Heupel continued his sentiment, speaking about his excitement to have No. 27 around the building.

“Great opportunity this weekend to celebrate one of the greatest that’s ever played here, Al Wilson,” Heupel said during his press conference Thursday. “Honored to have him lead our Vol Walk here on Saturday afternoon. Great opportunity for our fans to really just emphasize what he means to Vol Nation with what he’s done. A guy that, to me, embodies everything that it means to be a Volunteer. A guy that cares about his teammates, still to this day, more than he cares about himself. He is a guy that plays the right way and has always done that.”

On Jan. 11, 2021, Wilson was named to the 2021 College Football Hall of Fame class. Wilson was one of the key players on the 1998 championship team at Tennessee and was a consensus All-American selection that year.

“Honored to have [Al Wilson] here [at Tennessee],” Heupel said on Thursday. “And looking forward to having him spend some time with our football team over the course of the weekend, too.”

Tennessee (3-2, 1-1 SEC) will host South Carolina (3-2, 0-2 SEC) in Neyland Stadium this Saturday at noon ET. During the game, Tennessee will debut their all-black “dark mode” uniform for the first time ever.

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