In Focus: Purple & Gold Foundation
Alabama Native Connor Neighbors Creates a New Legacy
The LSU-Alabama annual matchup has undeniably become one of the greatest rivalries in college football. This season, as the two Southeastern Conference powerhouse teams prepare for the November 9 showdown, Alabama native Connor Neighbors also prepares for the epic game marking his final homecoming as a Tiger.
The senior fullback grew up in Huntsville, Ala., coming from a family that has produced three generations of SEC football players. However, this long family line of college players didn’t wear the purple and gold LSU jersey, but instead wore the crimson red at Alabama.
“My brother, my dad, my grandfather, my uncle and my great uncle all played football for Alabama,” Neighbors said.
The Neighbors football family has a strong presence engraved in Alabama’s football program. The talented family has been part of four national championships and multiple All-American awards, and it includes a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and one of the Tide’s legendary players.
To say the least, Neighbors could’ve easily followed in his family’s crimson-stained footsteps and played football for the Tide. Instead, he wanted to leave his own mark.
Coming out of high school, he didn’t receive any scholarship offers and only a few programs showed interest in him.
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“I didn’t know if was ever going to be good enough to play at this kind of level, but I always just tried to do my best and hopefully get noticed so I could play college football,” Neighbors said.
Then, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis contacted Neighbors, asking him to come to Baton Rouge and join the Tigers’ football program.
“He said he could help me reach my goals,” the player recalled. “I took that to heart. I had come down here before with my grandpa for a camp going into my senior year of high school, but I didn’t know what would happen, so when Coach Chavis called me, I was there. I wanted to be different and that's why I came down here. It worked out for best for me.”
Since his first walk into an empty Tiger Stadium, Neighbors’ commitment to the Purple and Gold has continuously grown, both on and off the field. This season, the thriving senior fullback has developed a great feel for the game as he teams up with J.C. Copeland, giving LSU one of the best fullback tandems in college football. In addition, Neighbors’ ability to run the ball or catch a pass is an advantage he provides to the Tigers’ stellar offense.
“If it wasn’t for LSU, I would have most likely stayed in Alabama and been an hour or two away from my family and friends,” Neighbors said. “Coming to LSU, I had to grow up fast, learn responsibility and mature, which took me a while to grasp. I am thankful for LSU today for a lot of reasons, but especially for making me the mature man I am today.”
The senior fullback also credits the close-knit relationships he shares with his teammates and coaches as the main reason behind his successful career. The whole team is a family, always respecting others and encouraging one another through the good and the bad.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a close friend of Neighbors’, spoke very highly of the senior fullback’s positive attitude and work ethic.
“He’s a guy who will do anything at any cost for his team,” Mettenberger said. “He plays with a fire inside of him and intensity that isn’t matched by most people who play this game. But he always knows how to keep it fun and is a hilarious personality off the field.”
On November 9, the punishing blocker will return to Alabama for the epic showdown and his homecoming as an LSU Tiger. While the senior knows how bittersweet this game will be, he remains focused on contributing his all in practice and school with the help of his Tiger teammates.
Neighbors recalls his most memorable LSU game was the first time he played Alabama in Tiger Stadium in 2010, because he got to play against his brother, Wesley.
“My brother’s last high school game he told me this wouldn’t be the last time we played on the same field together,” Neighbors said. “It was true we would play on the same field again, but it just so happened to be completely different teams. It was kind of awkward going against your own brother, but LSU won the game, so that was awesome. After the game, my brother and I took a picture at the 50-yard line, so that game will always be remembered.”
With plans to graduate in May 2014 in General Business, Neighbors wants to keep pursuing his football dreams and play in the National Football League. However, if pro football doesn’t work out, the future LSU alumnus will most likely pursue a master’s in business marketing.
While at LSU, the athlete has established not only his football career, but also great camaraderie with his teammates and his coaches that will never be forgotten. Even after graduation, Neighbors will return to Death Valley, a place holding so many life memories, the place he is thankful to call his forever home away from home.