Two Alabama football stars will lead the West Alabama Christmas Parade, the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority announced Monday.

Heather Shipley, a spokesperson for PARA, said their Grand Marshal Selection Committee searches for people with significant community contributions, lifetime achievements with lasting impact, and a career of accomplishments.

“The Grand Marshals selected for the 2023 West Alabama Christmas Parade are Cecil W. ‘Hootie’ Ingram and Kareem McNeal,” Shipley said. "Both individuals are not only beloved former Alabama Crimson Tide football stars, but longtime Tuscaloosa residents and hometown heroes who have greatly contributed to and inspired our community."

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attachment-Hootie Ingram

Ingram graduated from Tuscaloosa High School and played both baseball and football at the University of Alabama, where he was selected as an All-SEC defensive back in 1952. After his college career, Ingram went on to coach first in Tuscaloosa, then at colleges including Wake Forst, Virginia Tech, Georgia, and Arkansas, before becoming head coach at Clemson from 1970 to 1971.

After some time with the Southeastern Conference, he then became athletic director at Florida State University before coming home to the University of Alabama, where Ingram was AD from 1989 until 1995.

He hired Gene Stallings, and the Tide won the college football national championship in 1992. Ingram, now 90, has six grandchildren, all of whom are University of Alabama graduates.

attachment-Kareem McNeal

Kareem McNeal played for the Tide toward the end of Ingram's tenure and was an offensive tackle for Gene Stallings when, in 1995, he was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident.

The wreck ended McNeal's dreams of playing football professionally, but he found other dreams to pursue - he got married, fathered two sets of twins and spent two decades as a wellness instructor at Shelton State Community College. McNeal became a full-time faculty member in Alabama's College of Human Environmental Services in 2021.

McNeal also loves to cook, and his cheesecakes can be found for sale at River, Cravings and other Tuscaloosa establishments.

The two Tide legends will serve as grand marshals in the December 4th West Alabama Christmas Parade, which will feature a "Hometown Christmas" theme.

The deadline for participants (bands, vehicles, floats, horses, or walking groups) to register is this Wednesday, November 15th at 5 p.m. Sponsorship opportunities, including media mention and parade signage, are still available to local organizations and businesses.

To learn more, register to participate, see a parade route map and more, visit PARA's parade site here.

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