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April 30, 2012
UA great Neighbors dies
TUSCALOOSA | Billy Neighbors, a Northport native who became one of the most recognized players from Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's first national championship team at the University of Alabama and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, died Monday afternoon in Huntsville. He was 72.
Neighbors had suffered a heart attack last weekend.
"He was more than a teammate to me," UA athletics director Mal Moore said Monday. "He's just a dear friend, a close friend that I have stayed in very close contact with over the years. He will be missed by a lot of people and certainly missed by me.
"He was also a great player, a leader at a time when we needed leaders."
Neighbors was also part of a family legacy at Alabama that included a brother (Sid), two sons (Wes and Keith) and a grandson (Wesley) who all played for the Crimson Tide.
After a standout career at Tuscaloosa County High School, Neighbors was a freshman during Bryant's first season at Alabama in 1958. He went on to become an All-American and to win the Jacobs Award, given annually to the best blocker in the Southeastern Conference. During his three years of varsity eligibility, Alabama was 26-3-4 and was an undefeated national champion in 1961.
He also has an eight-year professional career with the Boston Patriots, who chose him in the sixth round of the American Football League draft, and the Miami Dolphins, twice earning All-Pro recognition.
After he retired from professional football, Neighbors moved to Huntsville, where he became a successful stock broker.
Earlier this year, Neighbors spoke to The Huntsville Times about the 50th anniversary of the 1961 national championship.
"We had somebody over there hollerin' at us," Neighbors told The Times. "Coach Bryant was a great defensive coach. You've got to be lined up right to make plays, and he made sure we were lined up right.
"We were fast and quick and we were in great condition and we'd get after you," Neighbors said. "It was unreal
Remember, we had to play both ways. We had to learn how to count to three. (Today) they don't have to."