Wes Neighbors’ ties to Alabama football run deep. His late father, Billy, was an All-America tackle on Paul “Bear“ Bryant’s first national championship team in 1961 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. His uncle, Sidney, played for the Crimson Tide in the late ’50s. So, long before Wes became good enough to attract college recruiters to his house in Huntsville, there was never much of a doubt where he would go if given the chance. A generation after Billy arrived in Tuscaloosa as part of Bryant’s first recruiting class, Wes was signed by the Bear on what would turn out to be his final signing day. Injured and then redshirted during Bryant’s final season, Wes became a four-year starter at center for Ray Perkins’ Crimson Tide, earning Second Team All-America and First Team All-SEC honors on the Alabama teams of 1985-86. The family tradition continued with his son Wesley, who played on Bama’s 2009 national championship team before suffering a career-ending injury.
CR: Did you feel burdened by following in your dad’s footsteps?
Neighbors: I was pretty naive about all that. I really didn’t. A lot of credit goes to my father. He really didn’t push me very much. Not that he had to. He would talk to me and…one of the great stories my mom tells is: After my first day of [pee wee football] practice, when my dad was still playing for the [Miami] Dolphins…he’s trying to tell me how to get in a stance, and I said: Oh, no, daddy! That’s not what my coach said! He really never pushed me, and I was the same way with my children. I never really tried to push ’em to play football. Football is a different sport. It’s not easy. Like Coach Saban says now: Football’s not meant for everybody. He never really pushed me and I guess the first day I realized the pressure was the first day I was there [in Tuscaloosa]. I’m sitting there at my locker and I look out and there’s my dad staring at me from [a picture hanging on] the wall. It kind of hit me then. But [he taught me to] just go and do the best you can do, and that’s all you can do. You can’t really worry about what everybody else does. Pretty soon, you get in a routine and you’re just trying to win every play. You kind of put all the other stuff behind you. What matters is, you’re fighting with your teammates to win the game. So my dad was nothing but a positive influence on, not only my football career, but in my life.
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