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Tennessee Athletics photo / Former Tennessee linebacker Al Wilson, who helped lead the 1998 Volunteers to the national championship, will be inducted later this year into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Former Tennessee linebacker Al Wilson, the defensive spearhead of the 1998 national championship team, was announced Monday as a member of the 2021 College Football Hall of Fame class.

Wilson will be the 25th Volunteers player or coach to be enshrined and the first since quarterback Peyton Manning in 2017. Tennessee's 25 inductees are the most of any Southeastern Conference program.

"It's truly a blessing to be considered one of the best to play the game at the collegiate level," Wilson said through a Tennessee release. "To my teammates, coaches and all of Vol Nation, this is our award!"

Wilson will be inducted during the 63rd National Football Foundation awards dinner on Dec. 7. The dinner will recognize both the 2020 and 2021 classes, with the 2020 event having been canceled due to COVID-19.

"I am so proud of Al Wilson being selected into the College Football Hall of Fame," said Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, who was Wilson's coach and became a College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2012. "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."

Wilson was a consensus All-American and a Nagurski Trophy finalist in 1998, when the Vols capped a 13-0 season with a 23-16 topping of Florida State in the inaugural BCS title game. In that season's 20-17 overtime upset of Florida, he racked up 12 tackles and three forced fumbles.

A first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1999, Wilson wound up being a five-time Pro Bowl selection.

 

Vols' Matthew Butler returning

Tennessee senior defensive tackle Matthew Butler announced Monday that he would use the extra year of eligibility allowed by the NCAA as a result of the coronavirus and return to Knoxville for the 2021 season.

Butler compiled 43 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble this past season for the 3-7 Volunteers, nearly matching the 45 tackles and 2.5 sacks he amassed during 13 games in his junior season. The 6-foot-4, 291-pounder revealed his announcement through a video.

In related news, Georgia had junior outside linebacker Adam Anderson and junior punter Jake Camarda announce their returns to Athens but lost defensive back Tyrique Stevenson to the NCAA transfer portal. Stevenson, a sophomore from Miami, had a key pass breakup late in the recent 24-21 topping of Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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