Unsung LSU FB makes history at Senior Bowl
LSU fullback Connor Neighbors, a former two-star walk-on, won’t be the star of Saturday’s Senior Bowl.
One of the least-recognizable SEC players participating in this week’s festivities, he may not even show up in the box scores, and he isn’t expected to be drafted.
But he’ll make history Saturday as the only third-generation Senior Bowl participant in the 65-year history of the game.
His grandfather, Billy Neighbors, was a standout defensive tackle and guard on Alabama’s 1961 national championship team. Billy Neighbors was the MVP of the 1962 Senior Bowl. His father, Wes Neighbors, played in the 1987 Senior Bowl as a center from Alabama, a member of Bear Bryant’s last recruiting class.
Now, after 43 games and 16 starts for the Tigers, Connor Neighbors gets his turn.
“(My dad) says we’ve got it easy because we don’t have two-a-days,” Connor Neighbors said, according to AL.com. “Of course, old-school – they’re a little tougher, meaner. For me, it’s an honor and a blessing to be here with the tradition we have in our family. I’ve got to uphold the legacy of being a pretty good player up here.”
A lightly-recruited high school linebacker, Neighbors did not draw interest from the Crimson Tide, forcing his dad and grandfather into a tough choice at least one game day per year. (Billy Neighbors died in 2012.)
“I’m finally going to be part of the same team as my father and grandfather,” Connor said, according to NOLA.com. “They were with the Crimson Tide, now we’re all together with the Senior Bowl South team.”
At 5-foot-11, 240 pounds, nicknamed “Bone Saw,” Connor Neighbors is considered a smart, athletic fullback, but a bit undersized at the NFL level. He’s likely to sign with a team as an undrafted free agent and get a shot at making a 53-man roster or 10-man practice squad.
NFL fullbacks have hovered just above serious danger of extinction for some time.
But Conner Neighbors fought through double hernia surgery in May, unable to properly train before the season, and sustained several nagging injuries in 2014. After the path he’s traveled, just getting a shot to draw a professional paycheck as a football player is rewarding, he’s told the media.
His dad can chirp about the good ol’ days all he wants, but Wes Neighbors got paid $2,000 as part of the South’s 42-38 victory in 1987, as the players earned money for participating until the 1990s, NOLA.com reported.
According to USA Today, Wes Neighbors found his own dad’s Senior Bowl MVP trophy within the last few years.
“I didn’t know he was the MVP of this game,” Wes Neighbors said. “But he has a trophy in the house. It’s always been there. But there were so many other trophies, you didn’t notice it. He just didn’t talk about stuff like that. He didn’t blow his own horn.”
The Neighbors family is quite proud of Connor this week, as Wes explained in comments to USA Today and AL.com.
“My dad and I were two of the top recruits in the state when we came out of Huntsville, but Connor really went unrecognized. And the road he has traveled here is as impressive as anything I’ve ever seen. Here’s a guy who wasn’t even invited down here for the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game (also at Ladd-Peebles Stadium). And now, he’s one of the guys at the Senior Bowl. That’s pretty cool,” Wes Neighbors said.
“It’s just awesome to see him, with what he’s been through and to see him make this game, it’s almost like make-believe. I knew he had the talent and the footwork and stuff, he just needed to get the size and he did that. Now you see him and he looks like he belongs. It’s fun to watch.”