Billy Neighbors Enshrined in College Football Hall of Fame

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
Friday, August 13, 2004

Billy Neighbors
Billy Neighbors

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Billy Neighbors, a member of Coach Paul W. Bryant's first national championship and a first-team All-American selection in 1961, is one of 11 former college football players enshrined this weekend for the 2003 College Football Hall of Fame class.

"Once again, due to the dedicated efforts of our Honors Court, and its chairman Gene Corrigan, we have another outstanding class of college football legends to induct this year," said Chairman Jon F. Hanson.  "We are pleased to recognize these outstanding players and coaches with college football's ultimate honor of induction into the College Football Hall of Fame."

The 2003 College Football Hall of Fame class will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana on August 13-14.

Neighbors is the 19th former Alabama football player to be inducted into The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.

Neighbors, who was a member of Bryant's first team in 1958, helped bring Crimson Tide football back into the national spotlight.  Neighbors and his Bama football mates paved the way for one of college football's most domianting eras.

One of the best to play for Coach Bear Bryant, Billy Neighbors bolstered the Alabama offensive line and catapulted the Tide to a 26-3-4 record and a national championship during his three-year tenure.

A unanimous All-America pick, Neighbors helped Alabama to three straight bowl appearances, including the 1961 Sugar Bowl.  This capped a perfect 11-0 season and handed the Crimson Tide their first national title in 20 years. Defensively, with Neighbors playing both sides of the ball, Alabama yielded just 25 points during the championship run.  The MVP of the Senior Bowl, Neighbors won the Southeastern Conference Jacob's Trophy in 1960, given to the top blocking lineman.

A resident of Huntsville, Ala., Neighbors was an All-SEC pick and team captain.  He was selected in the sixth round of the AFL draft by the Boston Patriots.  Neighbors played eight seasons with the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, twice earning All-Pro recognition.

Following his professional career, Neighbors became a highly successful businessman who also sought to remain active in giving back to the community.  Currently the senior vice president of Prudential Securities Inc., he has also volunteered with SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect), Progress Place Children's Home, American Cancer Society and the Lakeshore Hospital Foundation.

Other members of the 2003 Hall of Fame Class includes Rickey Bell (RB, Southern Cal, 1973-76), Murry Bowden (DB, Dartmouth, 1967-70), Tim Brown (G, Minnesota, 1958-60), Jimbo Covert (OT,  Pittsburgh, 1980-83), Doug Dickey (Coach, Tennessee/Florida, 1964-78), Hayden Fry (Coach, SMUk, North Texas State and Iowa, 1962-98), Jerry LeVias (End, SMU, 1965-68), Ron Pritchard (LB, Arizona State, 1966-68), John Rauch (QB, Georgia, 1945-48), Barry Sanders (TB, Oklahoma State, 1986-88), Joe Theismann (QB, Notre Dame, 1968-70) and Roger Wehrli (DB, Missouri, 1966-68).

2003 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE BIOGRAPHIES

Ricky Bell
University of Southern California
Running Back, 1973-76

At a school widely notorious for producing legendary running backs, Ricky Bell led an onslaught on the USC record books and is now regarded as one of the greatest of all-time.

A two-time unanimous All-America selection, Bell finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1976 and third in 1975.  As a sophomore, he helped USC win the National Championship.  As a junior, he led the nation in rushing with 1,957 yards and was named MVP of the Liberty Bowl.  As a senior, Bell earned PAC-10 Conference Player of the Year honors and played in both the 1977 Hula and Japan Bowls.

A two-time First Team All-Conference pick, Bell established single game records of 51 carries and 347 yards in 1976 en route to receiving the Pop Warner Award, given to the most valuable senior on the Pacific coast.  With 16 - 100 yard games to his name, Bell currently ranks fourth on USC's all-time rushing list with 3,689 yards.

Selected first overall in the 1977 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bell played six seasons in the NFL.  Involved in numerous community development projects with USC and the NFL, Bell became a restaurateur after retiring from the NFL in 1983.  Sadly, he died in 1984 at the age of 29 from cardiac arrest brought on by a rare skin and muscle disease.  He became a member of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.

Murry Bowden
Dartmouth College
Defensive Back, 1968-70

Opposing quarterbacks beware!  Lurking deep within the defensive backfield for Dartmouth College was a man known as the "Reckless Rover," All-America Murry Bowden.  A team captain, he led a defensive unit that aided Dartmouth to the Lambert Trophy, Ivy League Championship and the school's last undefeated season in 1970.

In addition to his All-America Honors, Bowden earned first team All-Ivy League, All-ECAC and All-East honors in 1970.  A key player on the top rated defense in the nation, Bowden helped the Big Green hold the opposition to only 42 points all season, recording six shutouts.  Despite suffering shoulder and knee injuries in three varsity seasons, Bowden led the team to a 28-8-0 record.

After graduating Cum Laude in 1971, Bowden embarked on a highly successful business career.  Following a stint with Ben Bergeron and Associates, Bowden became a partner at The Hanover Company in Houston, Texas, where he has remained since 1982.

Always eager to give back to the community, Bowden is a member of the Kinkaid Dads Club, St. Lukes Methodist Church, and Pos Oak Little League Association where he served on its board of directors for five years.  Very active in the Dartmouth Alumni Council, he has been co-chairman, president and has served on various committees.

Tom Brown
University of Minnesota
Guard, 1958-60

Known as the "Rock of Gibraltar" for his steadfast play in the middle of the defensive line, Tom Brown has often been credited with leading the resurgence of the Minnesota football program.  Finishing last in the BIG TEN in 1959, Brown spearheaded a dramatic turnaround that saw the Golden Gophers win a national championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl in 1960.

A fierce hitter, Brown took home a trophy case full of awards and honors in 1960, which included unanimous All-America recognition, the Outland Trophy, BIG TEN Conference MVP honors and the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the Golden Gopher's MVP.  He also finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1960 - only the third lineman to finish second or better in the history of the award at the time.  A First Team All-Conference pick, Brown played in the Coaches All-America All-Star Game and the Hula Bowl in 1961.

Following his legendary collegiate career, Brown played professionally for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League.  In 1964, the Lions won the Grey Cup, and Brown was named the team's MVP.

The former owner of a health and fitness store, Brown currently resides in Bellingham, Washington.

Jimbo Covert
University of Pittsburgh
Offensive Tackle, 1979-82

A dominating offensive tackle, Jimbo Covert stifled opposing pass rushers helping quarterback and fellow College Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino in guiding Pittsburgh to three consecutive 11-1 seasons and bowl game victories.  During his tenure, Pittsburgh went 42-6 and finished each season ranked amongst the top 10 in the nation.

A unanimous All-America selection in 1982, Covert appeared in both the Hula and Senior Bowls.  At 6'5", 280 lbs, he allowed only three sacks in his entire four-year career and none as a senior - a feat magnified by the fact that the Panthers averaged 34 pass attempts per game in 1982.

In 1983, Covert was selected sixth overall in the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.  In nine star-studded seasons, he was named to the Pro Bowl twice, Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1986 and helped guide the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX.
 
A member of the Western Pennsylvania and Beaver County Sports Halls of Fame and University of Pittsburgh All-Time Team, Covert has remained active in the community as a fund-raiser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, March of Dimes, Boys Club of America and the Spina Bifida Association.  The honorary co-chairman of the St. Joseph Hospital Associates Golf Tournament, he has helped raise more that $600,000 for cancer research programs.

Jerry LeVias
Southern Methodist University
End, 1965-68

A pioneer at Southern Methodist and in the Southwest Conference, Jerry LeVias became the first African-American player in SMU's history and the first ever in the conference to receive an athletic scholarship.  Amidst the trials and tribulations in breaking the color barrier, LeVias emerged as one of the great receivers of his day.

A consensus All-America, LeVias finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was named Most Valuable Back and Player in the Senior Bowl in 1969.  The team leader in receptions for three seasons, he led SMU in 1966 to their first SWC title in 18 years.  Known for his blazing speed and sure hands, LeVias earned First Team All-Conference honors three times, shattering records for receptions in a game (15), season (80), career (155), receiving yards in a season (1,131), career (2,275) and career touchdown receptions (22).

LeVias proved to be a talent in the classroom as well, evidenced by his Academic All-America selection in 1968.

Following graduation, LeVias played six seasons in the NFL with the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers.  Today he is a successful businessman in Houston, TX.

Billy Neighbors
The University of Alabama
Tackle, 1959-61

One of the best to play for Coach Bear Bryant, Billy Neighbors bolstered the Alabama offensive line and catapulted the Tide to a 26-3-4 record and a national championship during his three-year tenure.

A unanimous All-America pick, Neighbors helped Alabama to three straight bowl appearances, including the 1961 Sugar Bowl.  This capped a perfect 11-0 season and handed the Crimson Tide their first national title in 20 years. Defensively, with Neighbors playing both sides of the ball, Alabama yielded just 25 points during the championship run.  The MVP of the Senior Bowl, Neighbors won the Southeastern Conference Jacob's Trophy in 1960, given to the top blocking lineman.

An All-Conference pick and team captain, he was selected in the sixth round of the AFL draft by the Boston Patriots.  Neighbors played eight seasons with the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, twice earning All-Pro recognition.

Ron Pritchard
Arizona State University
Linebacker, 1966-68

Arguably the greatest linebacker in the history of the Arizona State football program, Ron Pritchard evoked fear in the eyes of his opponents while leading the Sun Devils to a pair of eight-win seasons.

A First Team All-America selection in 1968, Pritchard earned postseason births in the East-West Shrine Game, Coaches All-American Game, Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl.  In 1968, he was elected team captain, voted Most Valuable Defensive Player by his peers and led the Sun Devils in tackles and interceptions.  A three-time First Team All-Western Athletic Conference pick, Pritchard was selected to the 20-Year WAC All-Star Football Team.

Following his legendary collegiate career, Pritchard was selected 15th overall in the first round of the 1969 NFL draft by the Houston Oilers. After a nine year professional career with the Oilers and Cincinnati Bengels, ended prematurely due to a knee injury, he went into sales and eventually ran his own business, Interstate Battery Systems.

After selling his business, but he continues to give back to his community and particularly the game of football.  For many years, Pritchard has sponsored and funded a scholarship at his former high school, which goes to aid a scholar-athlete in furthering his or her education.  Pritchard also helps raise funds for the United Food Bank in Arizona.

John Rauch
University of Georgia
Quarterback, 1945-48

With robust statistics and unparalleled success, John Rauch may have been the greatest quarterback in NCAA history at the time of his graduation.  A dedicated field leader, Rauch started all 45 games of his career and led Georgia to two SEC Championships and a perfect 11-0 National Championship in 1946.

The first player in NCAA history to start four consecutive bowl games, Rauch ranks third all-time in career victories by a starting quarterback (36).  An All-America, he led the conference in passing and total offense in 1948 en route to earning Player of the Year honors.

A three-time First Team All-Conference performer, Rauch completed his collegiate career as the all-time NCAA career passing leader with 4,044 yards.  The Bulldogs' Most Valuable Back in 1947 and 1948, he currently ranks third in Georgia history in career yards per completion average (16.05), fourth in career touchdown passes (33) and sixth in career completions (252).

Selected first overall in the 1949 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions, Rauch played professionally for three seasons before retiring and beginning his career as a coach.  After coaching in the collegiate ranks for five different schools, he became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders and led them to an appearance in Super Bowl II.

Barry Sanders
Oklahoma State University
Tailback, 1986-88

Serving as a backup running back for Oklahoma State for two seasons, Barry Sanders emerged from the shadows in 1988 and put together what few disagree was the greatest rushing single-season of all-time.  Winner of the Heisman Trophy and recipient of the Maxwell, Walter Camp and CBS National Player of the Year awards, Sanders set 34 NCAA records in dominating fashion in 1988.

A unanimous All-America pick, Sanders made even the nation's best defenses look like Swiss cheese as he raced his way to 2,628 yards, 39 touchdowns and 234 points - all NCAA records that he still holds.  Also named BIG-8 Conference Player of the Year in 1988, Sanders continues to hold 14 conference rushing and return marks.

Owner of five of the top six single-game rushing performances in OSU history, he rushed for over 300 yards in a game four times, 200 yards in a game seven times and 100 yards in a game 17 times.  While listed as a backup for two seasons, Sanders excelled in special teams, leading the nation in kickoff return average in 1987.

Selected first overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, Sanders earned NFL MVP honors three times and All-Pro recognition in each of his 10 seasons prior to retirement in 2000.  Involved in many NFL endeavors, he has participated in numerous United Way activities.

Joe Theismann
University of Notre Dame
Quarterback, 1968-70

A Notre Dame legend, Joe Theismann launched an attack on the Irish passing record books - setting 19 school marks while leading the team to their first bowl appearance in 45 years in 1969 and a 10-1 record capped by a Cotton Bowl victory in 1970.

A First Team All-America choice, Theismann was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1970.  A participant in the 1970 Hula Bowl, Theismann set school records for passing yards in a game (526), yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16) among others.

In three seasons, Theismann led the Fighting Irish to a 25-4-3 record while completing 290 passes on 509 attempts for 4,411 yards, a mark that still ranks fifth in school history.  Honored for his classroom prowess, he earned Academic All-America honors in 1970 and was later named to the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

Following graduation, Theismann embarked on a 15-year professional career - his final 12 years in the NFL as a member of the Washington Redskins.  Upon retirement, he became a highly successful businessman as well as a prominent television sports analyst for ESPN.  Despite a hectic schedule, Theismann continues to support his charitable interests such as the United Way, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Roger Wehrli
University of Missouri
Defensive Back, 1966-68

Tirelessly roaming the defensive secondary, Roger Wehrli used his keen eye and quick first step to make game-winning plays, either intercepting a pass or returning a punt for a touchdown in three dominating seasons at Missouri.

A consensus All-America in 1968, Wehrli led the nation with 40 punt returns for 478 yards while leading Missouri with seven interceptions.  To cap off an 8-3 campaign, Wehrli had a decisive interception to help lead the Tigers to a 35-10 victory over Alabama in the Gator Bowl.  A Senior Bowl participant in 1968, he was named to the 50-Year Anniversary All-Senior Bowl Team in 1999.

Named BIG-8 Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1968, Wehrli twice earned All-Conference first team honors.  A member of the Missouri Athletics Hall of Fame, he holds the school records for career punt returns (92), and yards gained on punt return yards in a game (156), season (478) and career (1,062).

A first round NFL Draft choice by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1969, Wehrli played 14 years, earning Pro Bowl recognition seven times.  Highly active with numerous charities, he has volunteered time with the Easter Seals and March of Dimes and was awarded the Paul Christman Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Service.

COACHES

Doug Dickey
Head Coach - University of Tennessee (1964-69), University of Florida (1970-78)
104-58-6

Dedicating his career to SEC athletics, Doug Dickey is responsible for rejuvenating the Tennessee football program and maintaining a tradition of excellence at Florida.

When Dickey took over at Tennessee in 1964, it had been eight years since the Volunteers football program had enjoyed its last eight-win season.  In six years at the helm, his teams won eight or more games five times and made five bowl appearances.  Guiding his teams to two Southeastern Conference titles, Dickey reached the pinnacle of his success in 1967 when his Volunteers went 9-2-0 and were named National Champions by the Litkenhous Poll.

In 1970, Dickey answered the call of his alma mater and took the head coaching job at the University of Florida.  Showing the character and determination that would hallmark his career, Dickey immediately continued his coaching success as he led the Gators to a 7-4 record his first season. In his nine-year tenure at Florida, the Gators won 58 games and earned four bowl appearances.

For the last 17 years, Dickey has loyally served as the Director of Athletics at Tennessee.  A recipient of The National Football Foundation's John L. Toner Award, for demonstrating superior administrative abilities, especially in the area of college football, Dickey has served on numerous NCAA committees.

Hayden Fry
Head Coach - Southern Methodist University (1962-72),
North Texas State University (1973-78), University of Iowa (1979-98) 232-188-10

When you think of the faces that have molded the college football landscape throughout the years, Hayden Fry immediately comes to mind.  For 37 years Fry paced the sidelines at Southern Methodist, North Texas State and most notably Iowa - repeatedly stamping his name in the records books.

Leading his teams to 17 bowl appearances, Fry excelled at all three schools, but it was the profound effect he had in the rebirth of football at the University of Iowa that he is most remembered.  Prior to Fry's arrival, it had been 18 years since Iowa won more than five games in a season.  In his 20-year tenure at Iowa, the Hawkeyes won five or more games 18 times and eight or more games 11 times.  Fry also led Iowa to three BIG TEN titles and Rose Bowl appearances, being named conference Coach of the Year three times.

With 232 career victories, Fry ranks 11th all-time in Division I-A history. His 420 total games coached rank him sixth all-time and his 37 seasons are the fifth most ever.

Always community service minded, Fry holds an honorary board member position with the Iowa Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America Iowa Olympic Golf Tournament.  For years Fry has supported the Iowa Army National Guard, American Diabetes Association, Alcohol Awareness, Inc., The Epilepsy Association and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, to name a few.


 

 

     
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