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Hudson, McNeil, Neighbors to be inducted into HOF

MOBILE, Ala. (Jan. 14)– The Reese’s Senior Bowl will welcome three new members into its Hall of Fame on the Friday of game week with the addition of Oakland Raiders center Rodney Hudson, former Auburn standout DeMarco McNeil and former Alabama great Billy Neighbors.

Last year’s top pick in the NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield, will be honored as the Senior Bowl Rookie of the Year, the game also announced. 

"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,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy. 

The trio makes up the 31stclass in the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame, presented by Spire, and pushes the total number of inductees to 120 – an exclusive club when you consider more than 5,000 players have donned a Senior Bowl uniform in its 70-year history. 

The three former Senior Bowlers will be inducted on Friday, Jan. 25 at the Battle House Hotel in downtown Mobile, Ala., and join a prestigious group that includes Joe Namath, Walter Payton, Dan Marino, Bo Jackson and Brett Favre. 

RODNEY HUDSON | 2011 Senior Bowl

As a two-way lineman at B.C. Rain High School in Mobile, Ala., Hudson could do it all. His senior season, he had 47 pancake blocks as an offensive lineman and 55 tackles as a nose guard.

Hudson went on to star at Florida State, where he started 48 straight games at guard/center, earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors all four years and became the Seminoles’ first unanimous first-team All-American.  

Hudson set the conference career record for being named ACC Player of the Week nine times and was the 11th player in league history to win the Jacobs Blocking Award twice in a career (2009-2010), awarded annually to the player voted the most outstanding blocker in the conference by head coaches and defensive coordinators.

He was drafted in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011. After four seasons with the Chiefs, he signed with Oakland in 2016, where he has been named a Pro Bowler twice (2017-2018) and is widely considered one of the top centers in the NFL.

 “I was with the Kansas City Chiefs when we selected Rodney out of Florida State in the second round and it has been fun watching him become one of the top centers in the NFL,” Nagy said.  “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.”

Hudson was selected by his teammates as the winner of the Commitment to Excellence Award for the past two years. The award is presented annually to the Raider who best exemplifies hard work, leadership, and excellence on and off the field throughout the season.

DeMARCO McNEIL | 2004 Senior Bowl

McNeil played in the 2004 Senior Bowl after a stellar career at Auburn, where he was an All-American and later named to the Tigers’ All-Decade Team.

McNeil played his high school football at Blount, where he helped the Leopards win three straight Class 5A championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998. In 1998, his senior season, McNeil was the first interior lineman and first defensive-only player to be named ‘Mr. Football’ in Alabama.

On the plains, McNeil played defensive tackle from 2000-2003, earning freshman All-American honors in 2000. As a sophomore at Auburn, he was second on the team with 13 quarterback pressures and, as a nose guard, was one of the leading tacklers on the team as a junior and senior, earning All-SEC honors his final season. 

He played two seasons in the NFL, but his career was cut short by a knee injury.

“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.”

McNeil is now an analyst with the football program at South Carolina. Prior to his three years in Columbia, S.C., he coached the defensive tackles at Alabama State for three years and also coached at Tennessee and Birmingham-Southern.

BILLY NEIGHBORS | 1962 Senior Bowl

Neighbors, who will be inducted posthumously, played in the 1962 Senior Bowl and was a standout All-American and one of the top players on the 1961 Alabama team that won the first of six titles under legendary coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.  

He was the unequivocal leader of the 1961 undefeated team and a team captain, finishing off his senior season as a unanimous All-American and most outstanding lineman at the Senior Bowl.

His dominance stood the test of time as he was selected as a member of Alabama’s Team of the Century in 1992. One of the Crimson Tide’s spring awards is named in his honor, “The Billy Neighbors Most Improved Defensive Lineman Award.”

Neighbors went on to play four seasons in the American Football League (AFL) with the Boston Patriots – where he was a Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro – and four years with the Miami Dolphins.

In 2004, he was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.

Billy was the first of three generations of Neighbors to play in the Senior Bowl, joined later by his son Wes (Alabama – 1987) and grandson Connor (LSU – 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 longtime friend and teammate on the 1961 team, Lee Roy Jordan, will accept Neighbor’s award at the ceremony.

BROWNS QB BAKER MAYFIELD NAMED REESE’S SENIOR BOWL ROOKIE OF YEAR 

As the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, one would expect that player to have immediate success in his rookie season.

However, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was selected by the Cleveland Browns, a franchise that had started 27 different quarterbacks since 2000 and in its past 35 games had won a grand total of one game.

With the confident Mayfield on board, those Cleveland Browns are now a thing of the past.

The rookie quarterback took over as the Browns’ starting quarterback in week three of the 2018 season and the Browns were never the same. 

He led Cleveland to a 7-8-1 record – its best mark in more than a decade – and the Browns were in the playoff hunt until the second to last week of the season. In the process, Mayfield broke the rookie record for most touchdown passes – previously held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson – with 27. 

In 13 starts, he completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 3,725 yards with just 14 interceptions.