The official release of Al Wilson was documented quietly. Not even a press release was issued, since Wilson himself held a press conference on April 13 to share the news that the Broncos had parted ways with him after eight seasons — five of which saw him make the Pro Bowl.
With the NFL and Broncos buzzing with pre-draft preparations, the official release of Wilson was an unusually inaudible coda to a tenure defined by loud, impassioned invective in the huddle and open-field hits that elicited roars that spoke even more forcefully than any of his speeches to teammates.
But what I’ll remember about Wilson as a Bronco has nothing to do with his actions on the field. It’s two sights.
The first one is something visible to anyone scooting south along the long spaghetti strand of asphalt known as Interstate 25 — an often-displayed banner of Wilson, covering nearly the entire height of the INVESCO Field at Mile High facade, promoting prostate-cancer screening and awareness. Wherever he goes, it’s hard to imagine that his fundraising commitment to fighting that disease will continue; it is personal — far more so than any insult an opponent could hurl in his direction on the field.
The second is an SUV slowing down along the side of a suburban Arapahoe County road. My car wouldn’t start, and with the office within (lengthy) walking distance, I needed to make it into work, so I grabbed my three bags — carrying two laptops and a video camera — and started hoofing it to the office, hauling enough gear to where it appeared I was camping in the foothills.
Halfway to the office, a black SUV pulls over and its passenger-side window drops.
“Need a ride, man?” says a smiling, familiar face from behind the wheel.
He didn’t have to do that. I was halfway to work, and, frankly, I could have used the exercise anyhow. But that’s just the kind of person Wilson is — and why his teammates lamented his potential — and now official — departure throughout the month.
I’m sure that Wilson’s locker-room mates saw many more examples of the character that rested beneath the tough, plain-spoken facade — and his credentials as a leader are certainly unquestioned after he spoke at the funerals of Darrent Williams and Damien Nash.
But for me, Wilson will always be the helpful fellow who gave me a ride to work. And if I didn’t thank you properly at the time, Al, I hope this suffices.