Wilson, Broncos' first-round draft pick in '99, retires

9/10/2008 - NFL Al Wilson

Five-time Pro Bowler and former Denver Broncos linebacker Al Wilson officially announced his retirement Wednesday.

Wilson, 31, informed the NFL that he is giving up thoughts of coming back to the league. He suffered a neck injury on Dec. 3, 2006, and was never able to get back to the field. The Broncos traded him to the New York Giants in 2007, but the trade was voided when the Giants wouldn't pass him on the physical.

Doctors gave Wilson the clearance to try to play this season, but not having secured a new team, Wilson decided that his career has come to an end.

"I thank all my fans from my high school and college days in Tennessee on into my time in the NFL and Denver for their continued love and support throughout the years," Wilson said on the JOCKlife.com Web site. "I was truly blessed to play the game I love and I am forever grateful to those that believed and entrusted in me. Playing for my fans and my teammates made the game of football everything to me."

Wilson was a first-round choice of the Broncos in 1999 and was the leader of the Broncos defense during his playing days. In eight seasons, he had 712 tackles, 21 sacks, five interceptions and eight forced fumbles.

"He meant so much to this organization," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "I really enjoyed all the years he spent with us -- hate to see him go. He gave it everything he had every day."

Wilson hurt his neck running into a teammate on a tackle against Seattle on Dec. 3, 2006. He had to be carted off the field, the crowd giving him an ovation and chanting his name.

He was released after the season.

Wilson is currently pursuing an injury grievance against the Broncos.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.