HOF lineman Billy Neighbors dies

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Billy Neighbors, a star lineman on coach Bear Bryant's first national championship team at Alabama and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, has died. He was 72.

Jerry Carriger of Laughlin Service Funeral Home says Neighbors died Monday afternoon at Huntsville Hospital. A cause of death was not immediately known.

Neighbors, who was born in Tuscaloosa, was an All-American in 1961 for the Crimson Tide, playing both offense and defense. He anchored a defense that allowed a total of 25 points and posted six shutouts in 11 games that season.

"Billy meant so much to Alabama football over the decades," Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who was a teammate of Neighbors, said in a statement. "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."

He went on to an eight-year professional career with the Boston Patriots and Miami Dolphins. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

"Billy was easy to like. It was always easy to talk with Billy," Moore said. "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."

Both of his sons, Wes and Keith, played for the Crimson Tide.