The pathfinder – Connor Neighbors wants to lead the Tigers to victory

From: Huntsville, Alabama
Know this: He’s nicknamed “Bone Saw” after “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s character in 2002’s Spider-Man.

Kin to college hall of famer and NFL offensive guard Billy Neighbors (his grandfather) and All-SEC center Wes Neighbors (his father), this Huntsville native could’ve followed their path to the University of Alabama. Instead, at the height of the “Saban betrayed us” era, he chose archrival LSU. A suspension sidelined him his freshman year, and he spent his sophomore outing on the scout team. Like his grandfather, he thought about quitting, but he kept at it.

In 2012, he turned the coaches’ heads at fullback, pummeling linebackers and creating alleys for ball carriers. His work ethic improved, and there’s no looking back now. He’s ready to blaze a new path this year.

Why LSU?
I grew up in Alabama’s facilities. I dreamed about going there as a kid. As I got older and more mature, I knew it wasn’t the best fit. I wasn’t heavily recruited at all. While visiting LSU with my grandfather and father, I walked down through the stadium to the tunnel, and I got chills down my body. That’s when I realized I wanted to come here.

Did your Bama family give you grief?
They wanted me to do my own thing. I’m not the black sheep of the family, but I believe a man has to make his own way. I didn’t want [my football career] to be because of what my family did before me. I came on here as a linebacker, and it was hard. I’m a fullback now. It worked out for the best. I love this place.

So you’re starting now?
Coach Frank [Wilson] says the depth chart is etched in sand. I’m glad he says that because some people can get complacent. That’s not me. I want to work for everything. When there’s competition, everyone’s getting better.

At what moment did you realize you had to make the most of your situation?
In 2011, I got put on scout team. That hurt real bad. I was thinking to myself, “Should I go to junior college and get out of here?” My grandfather was still alive, and we talked about it. Going into his sophomore year, he thought about quitting. He had his bags packed and everything. His mom was waiting for him when he came home, and she told him that he wasn’t welcome there. She sent him back. It hit me. I looked deep down in myself. I couldn’t quit. I had to stick it out. On the scout team you’re taking a beating in front of everybody. It was demoralizing because I thought I should be playing on the field. I’m glad it happened, though, because it made me a better person.

Say you get the job, what changes are you facing becoming the man at fullback?
More responsibility—which I’m okay with. People are more inclined to scrutinize you and criticize you. That can be your teammates or fans. I want to be that guy. I want to show them how you win, how you prepare to win and how you act when you’re a winner. There’s a reason why people win national championships. It’s because they do it right. Not saying you can’t have a little fun, but do it the right way, know who’s watching and who’s getting after you.

You were friends with Mettenberger?
Oh yeah, he is one of my best friends. We lived together.

Did he give you any advice before he left?
To be honest with you, we live football so much we don’t talk about it. I’ve been with Zack for so long. I’ve watched him grow up as a leader. Sometimes, he didn’t tell me anything directly. I observed it.

That’s what I loved about Zack. There would be certain game situations where he would take control. It’s pretty crazy when you’re in someone else’s house, there are 100,000 people screaming, but you can’t hear them. All you can hear is him in the huddle, telling us what to do. You’re focused on the leader—that’s what I want to be. Put the burner on me. I’m going to lead this team to victory.