Daily Archives: April 30, 2012

Alabama football legend passes away Monday

Former Alabama football star Billy Neighbors passed away Monday afternoon in Huntsville days after suffering a heart attack, multiple news outlets reported. He was 72.

A member of the 1961 Crimson Tide national championship team, Neighbors was a big part of a defense that allowed just 25 points all season. He was a consensus All-American that season and was a sixth-round pick of the Boston Patriots in the NFL draft.

Neighbors played eight pro seasons and started 56 times with the Patriots and Dolphins. A two-time Pro Bowler, he retired following the 1969 season and was a successful stock broker in Huntsville.

Two more generations of Neighbors went on to play football at Alabama. Son Wes Neighbors played from 1983-86 and grandson Wesley followed from 2008-10.

While attending the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1961 championship team, Neighbors commented on how much the game changed since he played both offense and defense.

“It wasn’t as complicated as it is now, but you had to be more physical because you had to be out there so long,” Billy Neighbors said. “Can you imagine playing 60 minutes and covering every kickoff and every punt, every special team and never coming off the field? It was unreal.”

Neighbors was inducted to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1983 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Update: Alabama athletics director Mal Moore, a teammate of Neighbors’, released a statement a little bit ago.

“Hearing the news of the passing of Billy Neighbors is very difficult. Billy meant so much to Alabama football over the decades. He was one of our first great players under Coach Bryant, and he had become a tremendous friend to me and everyone in the Alabama family. Billy was easy to like. It was always easy to talk with Billy. We spoke three or four times a week for as far back as I can remember. I have lost a great friend and Alabama certainly lost a legend. It’s just a tremendous loss.”

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Relaxing in Miami hotel, former Tide starter gets call from Ravens

Seven more former Alabama football standouts joined the eight drafted in the NFL over the weekend. Here’s the story of offensive lineman Alfred McCullough’s path to the Baltimore Ravens …

TUSCALOOSA — Watching hour after hour of the NFL draft didn’t interest Alfred McCullough.

The Athens High graduate had his mind on basketball Saturday afternoon. He had driven to south Florida to take his cousin to a Miami Heat game when his phone rang.

“I was chilling in my room in Miami, and they asked how I felt about being a Raven,” McCullough said Sunday on a break from the 15-hour drive back to Limestone County. “We made the deal.”

McCullough, an offensive lineman, was one of seven former Alabama players who signed free-agent deals in the hours after eight teammates were taken in the NFL draft. He will reunite with linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the second-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, also home to ex-teammates Terrence Cody and Chavis Williams.

“It’s always been a dream to make the NFL,” said McCullough, a starter in six games as a senior including the BCS National Championship Game.

“It’s just surreal right now.”

A few other NFL teams called later on, but McCullough already had a deal. He plans on training in Athens for two more weeks before heading to the Baltimore mini-camp. The real test comes in August when McCullough, all the drafted players, and returning veterans compete for the team’s 53 roster spots.

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