The Centennial Soapbox
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 Former Denver Broncos Linebacker Al Wilson                                               No, I'm not talking about yet another FN user abandoning the site in light of the recent changes. On Wednesday, former Denver Broncos linebacker Al Wilson officially announced his retirement from the NFL. Wilson missed all of 2007 after sustaining a neck injury in 2006. He couldn't pass a physical after that time.

Contrary to popular belief that the Broncos most prominent position through the years has been running back, the linebacker position has been the staple of the NFL's most successful franchise. While Denver is best known for having a potent running attack, there have only been 2 prominent tailbacks who have played the majority of their careers in Denver, Terrell Davis and Floyd Little. Meanwhile, the Orange Crush has given the NFL the likes of Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Karl Mecklenburg, Jim Ryan, John Mobley, and Al Wilson, all of which have maintained the tradition of speed from the linebacker position in Denver.

Coming off of a second consecutive Super Bowl victory during the 1999 offseason, much of the question in Denver was whether or not John Elway would return for a 17th season. After the anticlimactic answer to that question, attention turned to the NFL draft. The Broncos already had Bubby Brister and Brian Griese in the fold, so with the quarterback situation seemingly shored up for the future, Mike Shanahan and the Broncos front office decided to use their first pick of the 1999 NFL draft on a middle linebacker out of the University of Tennessee. They officially made Aldra Kauwa Wilson the 31st overall seleFormer Denver Broncos linebacker Al Wilson lays a hit on former New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch during the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff Game.ction in that year's draft.

During his time in Denver, Wilson quickly became known as one of the best middle linebackers in the entire NFL. He embodied everything that the linebacker position has always been known for in Denver. He was undersized at just 6'0" and very fast. He developed a reputation through the years as a heavy hitter, and he was the clear emotional leader of a very successful Denver defense throughout his time. I don't think that it is any coincidence that the Broncos defense suffered terribly in 2007 without Al Wilson in the fold. Overall, he was a 2-time NFL All-Pro and a 5-time Pro Bowl selection. He recorded a total of 580 tackles, 21.5 sacks, and 5 interceptions over the course of his 8 year playing career. Wilson will be a sure-fire Denver Broncos Ring of Fame selection. This is a sad week to be a Broncos fan.

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