In case you haven't guess, 1998 was pretty much the epitome of Coach Fulmer's career. Everything about that year had something unique and memorable. I've gone on about it being John Ward's last year. The improbable wins against Florida and Arkansas. The national championship itself. But the main thing that stands out for me that year were the players. We didn't have any "superstars" on our team like a Peyton Manning. Our quarterback was Tee Martin. He was a great quarterback, but didn't get a lot of attention and didn't really like standing in the spotlight. Another was a linebacker named Al Wilson. In addition to being a huge, bone-crushing defenseman, he was the heart and soul of that team and probably one of the main reasons they felt inspired to accomplish things that people said they couldn't.
I love Peyton Manning - this is certainly not news - but truth be told, he will never occupy the place reserved in my heart for Tee Martin and Al Wilson. Every fall for the next few years after they graduated - and well, even now - we start getting excited about the start of the football season and then I stop and am a little bit sad and think "I miss Al Wilson." Or, especially this year, "I wish Tee Martin was here."
I don't have to miss Peyton - he's on a television commerical at least once a day and NBC reruns his "Saturday Night Live" show whenever they get a chance.
Both Al and Tee went onto the NFL. Tee Martin's career lasted a few years and he has gone on to be a successful quarterback coach. Al's lasted a decade and he retired at the begining of this season from the NFL and the Denver Broncos as a five-time player in the Pro Bowl.
The news media likes jump on stories of either the celebrity football players like our Manning boys or the notorious ones like Michael Vick. But for every player in the NFL that's in a commercial or on trial, there are many more out there just doing there job and going about their business everyday without any fanfare. Yes, I know they're getting paid millions of dollars to go about their business, but it's a side we never get to see and one that I think should get more attention.