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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