In this space back in February when the National Championship was a fresh and vivid reality, we…
Part of the Alabama travel squad to LSU Saturday will include Crimson Tide back-up safety Wesley Neighbors, who plays primarily on Bama special teams. Alabama and LSU will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Tiger Stadium with CBS televising the game.
But Wesley's father, Wes, and grandfather, Billy, and others in the Neighbors family can be excused for having divided loyalties Saturday...or, at least, diminished Alabama enthusiasm.
That's because Wesley's brother, Connor, is a true freshman fullback for LSU.
Wesley is a 6-1, 205-pound sophomore safety. He was redshirted in 2008, then had to sit out last year to gain eligibility under the terms of those attending The University on a Bryant Scholarship. Bryant Scholarships to The University of Alabama are awarded to the children of those who played and worked under legendary Bama Coach Paul Bryant. Wesley certainly qualifies. While his grandfather, Billy, was in Bryant's first recruiting class, Wesley's father, Wes, was in Bryant's final freshman class. And there have been uncles and brothers and cousins of the clan at Alabama.
(Father Wes bragged that Wesley "is the first Neighbors to make the Dean's List." He's a two-time Academic All-SEC selection.)
Since Alabama and LSU had the same off week last week, Wesley picked Connor up at the Birmingham airport so the two could be home with their family on the open date.
So how did the reunion work out?
"It was actually a weekend of silence," Wesley said. "Usually my dad is coming around and asking, ‘What's going on? How are y'all doing at practice.' This week at the dinner table nothing was said.
"I picked him up at the airport Friday and dropped him off Sunday in Birmingham. Nothing really was said there either. If there had been, we'd probably have been out on I-65 (the interstate highway between Birmingham and Huntsville) getting after it."
That wouldn't be anything new. Asked what he and Connor had competed in growing up, Wesley said, "Life."
He continued, "Honestly, everything. My whole family is competitive. My dad would be the quarterback and it would be one-on-one in the front yard. After five minutes we'd have to go inside and be in timeout because we'd start fighting. Every little thing."
Wesley said that Connor is happy at LSU and he's happy for his brother. "Nonetheless," he said, "I wish he was here." He said the two talk at least once a week.
Wesley was unable to play early in the year because of surgery, but he was watching on television when LSU played North Carolina. Connor made it into the game. "I cried because I was so proud of him," Wesley said. "He's a really hard worker and will never give up."
Conner wasn't on the LSU travel squad in the second week and went to the Alabama-Penn State game, so he got to see Wesley's first Alabama game action.
Although Connor is younger by a couple of years, Wesley said Conner "has gotten bigger than me." That may put a crimp in post-game greetings, Wesley said. "I'm a little intimidated by him."