— NC State Football (@PackFootball) April 23, 2015
Exactly 14 years after he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, former Wolfpack safety Adrian Wilson formally announced his retirement from the NFL. On Monday, Wilson signed a one-day contract with the team, allowing him to retire as a Cardinal.
Oh my God…am I really THIS OLD!?!?!? How in the WORLD can it be FOURTEEN YEARS since Wilson left Raleigh? Which means that it has been 15 or 16 years since he cemented his name into Wolfpack lore forever with this hit on a glorious day in Chapel Hill.
Wilson became a franchise icon during his 12 seasons with the team before being released on March 8, 2013. General manager Steve Keim, fellow NC State alumnus and close friend to Wilson, admitted that the decision was painfully difficult as he had known Wilson since he was only 17 years old and helped to draft him in 2001.
Following his release Wilson attempted to prolong his career, spending time with the Patriots and Bears, but on Monday, friends, family and the man to whom he credits his insurmountable success stood by him as he signed his one-day contract with his initial team.
“To Steve Keim, I owe you more than a paragraph on this piece of paper,” said an emotional Wilson on Monday. “It seems like yesterday I was 17 years old and you took me under your wing at NC State. If I could open up my heart and show you how much love there is in there for you I would do that. From day one you were always there for me and that’s true friendship.”
The unbreakable friendship between Wilson and Keim began during Wilson’s time with the Wolfpack. Keim was an area scout for the Cardinals during Wilson’s three seasons at NC State (1998-2000). During his collegiate career, Wilson posted 248 career tackles — the most by an NC State defensive back since 1995. He was a two-year starter and was named second-team All-ACC following his final season.
“He had a passion for the game that was certainly unmatched,” said Keim. “Today, he’s set the bar for this organization.”
Wilson became one of the most influential players on the team and one of the most powerful players in the game during his 12 seasons with the Cardinals. He was voted a five-time defensive captain by his teammates, continuing to uphold the leadership role he had been awarded for during his final season at NC State.
Wilson played 181 games with the Cardinals, the sixth-highest mark in team history. His eight sacks in 2005 remain is a single-season NFL record for a NFL defensive back and his 25.5 career sacks rank fourth in NFL history among defensive backs. Wilson is only one of six players to total at least 25 sacks and 25 interceptions in a career – one with a return of 99 yards ranking the second most in NFL history.
A five-time pro bowl selection, many of his numbers liken to those of current Hall of Famers and the Cardinals are currently working to induct him into the Cardinals Ring of Honor.
“My whole life, all I’ve wanted to do was matter, be a part of change, to be part of a centerpiece that could turn a team around,” said Wilson. “I poured my heart and soul into this organization. It took time and patience to develop a formula that worked, and I was more than willing to be a part of that.”
If I remember correctly….and, I might not being that I am obviously getting this old….I seem to remember that Wilson originally committed to East Carolina and ultimately changed his commitment to Mike O’Cain and NC State.