Adrian Wilson heading to Cardinals’ Ring of Honor after announcing retirement

TEMPE, Ariz. – Adrian Wilson gave his all for the Arizona Cardinals for 12 years. It was tough for him to sit in front of an auditorium full of people and cameras on Monday and tell the world that he’s hanging up his cleats, but he had to, 14 years to the day Arizona selected him in the third round [64th overall] of the 2001 NFL Draft.

Wilson signed a one-day contract on Monday, which will allow him to officially retire as an Arizona Cardinal.

“Today, I will be retiring from the National Football League as a proud member of the Arizona Cardinals,” Wilson said. “Every single offensive coordinator in the NFL is let off the hook today, because No. 24 will not be destroying any more game plans.”

Wilson fought back tears throughout his opening statement, pausing for a few seconds at one point as his emotions got the best of him. That’s how much he loves the Cardinals and valued his time in Arizona.

“When I first came to Arizona it was just me, and I’m leaving Arizona with four kids and a family. I hold that near and dear to my heart,” Wilson said.

It was a number of things that led Wilson to make this life-altering decision. Being 35 years old, his body not being able to get itself back to 100-percent, and the change in the way the game of football is played, made Wilson’s mind up for him.

“It was probably in my best interest to just let my family know that I was going to retire and just kind of give them an ease, I should say,” Wilson said. “Over the years, missing so many school activities, just so many things with the kids, I just felt like that was probably a big part of the decision in retiring.”

Team president Michael Bidwill didn’t hesitate to announce that Wilson would be going into the Ring of Honor at University of Phoenix Stadium sometime this season. Wilson’s resume makes him a slam-dunk entry:

  • Wilson’s a five-time Pro Bowler [2006, 2008-11].
  • Wilson’s one of six players in NFL history [Ronde Barber, Brian Dawkins, Rodney Harrison, Ray Lewis, William Thomas] with at least 25 sacks and 25 interceptions.
  • Wilson, along with Hall of Famer Larry Wilson [1962-63, 1965-70], are the only two safeties in team history selected to five or more Pro Bowls.
  • Wilson’s 25.5 career sacks rank as the fourth-best total in league history among defensive backs since sacks became an official statistic back in 1982.
  • Wilson’s 27 career interceptions rank sixth in team history.

“Tomorrow, when the NFL announces its schedule for the season, we’re going to start working on – and I’m sure in the next couple of weeks – pick a date when we can put Adrian [Wilson] into the Ring of Honor at University of Phoenix Stadium, so that all of our fans can do what we’re going to do today, which is show him some respect and show him some love and thank him for the great years as a Cardinal, and all the great contributions he made to this team and to the greater Phoenix area and to the Arizona community, as well as the National Football League,” Bidwill said. “I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving to go into the Ring of Honor this year than Adrian Wilson.”

Wilson has never been the “Hey, look at me!” type of person. He’s always been quiet, humble and stayed to himself. That approach to life hasn’t changed, even after Bidwill made the announcement about Wilson going into the Ring of Honor.

“This day is not just for me. I’m going to the Ring of Honor, but my family is going to the Ring of Honor as well, my friends are, and all my teammates,” Wilson said. “For me, it’s always been about the team, not just me.”

General manager Steve Keim met Wilson at N.C. State when he was 17-years old. At the time, Keim was the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Wolfpack – also Keim’s alma mater. Wilson’s “infectious smile” and his physical build were two things that immediately caught Keim’s eye. Being able to see Wilson and what he offered made it easier for Keim later down the line when he became a college scout for the Cardinals in 1999. He saw all he needed to see from Wilson in Raleigh, N.C., to suggest that the Cardinals take him in the 2001 NFL Draft.

“Watching him on tape coming out as a third-year junior, there were some inconsistencies to his game just because he hadn’t played a lot of football at that level, but he had rare height, weight and speed, and he had a passion for the game that was certainly unmatched,” Keim said. “Today, he set the bar for this organization. When we send our scouts on the road, we truly tell them, ‘Let’s find the next Adrian Wilson.’ It’s not just the player on the field; it’s the person, it’s the character, it’s the intangibles that made him special.”

Wilson hasn’t put much thought into his future with the Cardinals, and if it involves him being a part of the coaching staff or possibly taking a front-office position of some sort. All he cares about right now is being at his daughter’s track meet on Tuesday. Everything else beyond that will fall in place when it’s time.

“I kind of want to take my time on that. There’s really no set timeframe,” Wilson said.

The Arizona Cardinals have reported back for their strength and conditioning program, as they’re getting prepared again for another season. This is something Wilson won’t ever have to worry about being a part of again after tomorrow. Among other things, Wilson says he’s going to miss that preparation part of the game.

“Just being able to turn your brain on and think the game – I think that’s probably the one thing that I’ll miss about it probably the most,” Wilson said. “The physical contact obviously is a plus, as well.”

“I don’t know – all my teammates, just going through the process with all my teammates, seeing guys grow, seeing Calais [Campbell] grow as a player, seeing Rashad Johnson grow as a player, Justin Bethel – all the guys who are sitting in the crowd now – just seeing them grow from a young player to who they are now. Now, those guys are the cornerstones of the organization. I would like to think I had a hand in helping those guys kind of realize the way.”


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