The Reese’s Senior Bowl will induct a Class of 2019 into its Hall of Fame this month that has strong state ties after revealing the three new members on Monday afternoon — Rodney Hudson, DeMarco McNeil and Billy Neighbors.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, also will be honored as the Senior Bowl Rookie of the Year.
“It’s always such an honor for the Reese’s Senior Bowl to recognize our annual Hall of Fame inductees, and this 2019 class is an exceptional group,” Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy said.
The three new Hall of Famers will be inducted on Jan. 25 at the Battle House Hotel in Mobile — the day before the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The Class of 2019 will be the 31st group inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame, bringing its membership to 120 from the more than 5,000 players who have participated in the annual all-star game.
Hudson represented Florida State at the 2011 Senior Bowl, McNeil represented Auburn at the 2004 Senior Bowl and Neighbors represented Alabama at the 1962 Senior Bowl.
Hudson just completed his eighth NFL season and his fourth as the center for the Oakland Raiders. He’s twice been a Pro Bowler with the Raiders and has made every Raiders’ offensive snap since he missed part of a game on Nov. 22, 2015. His teammates chose Hudson to receive Oakland’s Commitment to Excellence Award for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Hudson was an All-State offensive lineman for B.C. Rain in 2005 and 2006. At Florida State, Hudson was a first-team All-ACC guard four times, a Football Writers Association of America All-American in 2009, a unanimous All-American in 2010 and the winner of the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2009 and 2010.
“I was with the Kansas City Chiefs when we selected Rodney out of Florida State in the second round,” Nagy said, “and it has been fun watching him become one of the top centers in the NFL. Talent aside, Rodney is one of the hardest-working offensive linemen that I ever scouted. When his career is over, he will go down as one of the best players ever to come of Mobile.”
Blount won three consecutive AHSAA Class 5A football championships with McNeil in the Leopards’ lineup as an All-State defensive lineman. In 1998, McNeil won the state’s Mr. Football Award, becoming the first interior lineman and the first defense-only player to earn the honor.
A four-year starter at nose guard for Auburn, McNeil was a freshman All-American and an All-SEC selection in his final season on the Plains. A knee injury derailed McNeil’s NFL chances.
McNeil is now an analyst with the South Carolina football program.
“The Senior Bowl wanted to recognize DeMarco as one of the best high school players that the city of Mobile ever produced,” Nagy said. “Earning Mr. Football honors in the state of Alabama as a defensive lineman is an incredible accomplishment, especially considering all the great offensive skill players this state produces.
“Unfortunately, the violent nature of the sport started taking a toll on DeMarco during his time at Auburn and injuries prevented him from having the NFL career he appeared destined for.”
Neighbors was an All-State center at Tuscaloosa County in 1956 and 1957.
Now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Neighbors was a unanimous All-American selection at tackle in 1961, when he helped Alabama win coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s first national championship with the Crimson Tide. The Billy Neighbors Most Improved Defensive Lineman Award, presented annually, is one of Alabama’s spring-football awards.
Neighbors went on to play eight seasons in the AFL split between the Boston Patriots and Miami Dolphins. He earned Pro Bowl recognition twice and was an All-AFL selection at right guard in 1964.
Neighbors was the first of three generations to play in the Senior Bowl, followed by his son Wes, from Alabama in 1987, and grandson Connor, from LSU in 2015.
“Billy Neighbors is one of the most decorated linemen the University of Alabama has ever produced,” Nagy said. “He was named to the 1960’s All-Decade Team of the New England Patriots. The Reese’s Senior Bowl is proud to have three generations of Neighbors men participate in our game.”
Neighbors died in 2012. His former Alabama teammate, Lee Roy Jordan, will represent Neighbors at the induction.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.