Ken Stabler Was One Of The Greats

In the 1970s when Alabama was running roughshod over college football opponents with the wishbone offense, Charley Thornton, the host of “The Bear Bryant Show,” asked the star of “The Bear Bryant Show,” an interesting question: How would Kenny Stabler have done as a wishbone quarterback?

“They would have had to put another number on the scoreboard,” said Paul Bryant.

Kenny Stabler was one of the all-time great quarterbacks in storied Alabama football history. Stabler died at age 69 Wednesday of cancer.

Kenny “Snake” Stabler was an All-America in 1967. He played on Crimson Tide teams that compiled a 28-3-2 record (1965-67) including a perfect 11-0 mark in 1966. He was winner of the Miller-Digby Trophy as most valuable player of the Sugar Bowl as he completed 12 of 17 passes for 218 yards and rushed for 40 yards in a 34-7 win over Nebraska. He was SEC Player of the Year.

He and Joe Namath were selected as quarterbacks of Alabama’s Team of the Century.

Stabler was selected by Oakland in the second round of the NFL draft. He had been a first-round Major League Baseball draft pick by the Houston Astros, but turned that down for the NFL. His 15-year NFL career was with Oakland, Houston, and New Orleans.

He was the winning quarterback in Super Bowl XI.

He served as color man on radio broadcasts of Alabama football.

Although he died Wednesday night, his death was kept quiet until Thursday afternoon when rumors began circulating. The confirmation came from this family statement:

“We announce with great sadness that our father, Ken Stabler, passed away Wednesday, July 8 as a result of complications associated with colon cancer.

“He passed peacefully surrounded by the people he loved most, including his three daughters and longtime partner, as some of his favorite songs played in the background, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and Van Morrison’s ‘Leaves Falling Down.’

“He quietly battled Stage 4 colon cancer since being diagnosed in February.

“He wanted to make a difference in the lives of others in both life and death. At his request, his brain and spinal cord were donated to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to support research for degenerative brain disease in athletes.

“He was a kind, generous and unselfish man, never turning down an autograph request or an opportunity to help someone in need. A great quarterback, he was an even greater father to his three girls and grandfather to his two ‘grand snakes.’

“We are grateful for the tremendous love and support from friends and fans. We ask that you please respect our privacy during this difficult time as we grieve this heartbreaking loss.

“Funeral Arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to the XOXO Stabler Foundation to support research of colon cancer and sports-¬-related head trauma. More Information will be available on Ken Stabler’s Facebook Fan page and the XOXO Stabler Foundation.

“He is survived by his three daughters Kendra Stabler Moyes (husband, Scott), Alexa (fiancé, Hunter Adams) and Marissa; His grandsons Jack And Justin Moyes; Sister Carolyn Bishop; Nephew Scott Bishop; and great nephew and niece Tayler and Payton Bishop. He is preceded in death by his father, Leroy Stabler, and mother, Sally Stabler.”

On a personal note, I got to know Kenny after his football career, and particularly during his time with the Alabama broadcast team. I particularly remember Bama’s trip to Gainesville in 1999. I picked up Kenny and Doug Layton, also a member of the broadcast team at that time, at their hotel to go to the stadium. Doug was doing a pre-game show and asked me to join him. Doug asked me what Alabama had to do to win the game against the third-ranked Gators of Coach Steve Spurrier.

I said that I hoped that Alabama could keep the game close and, hopefully, with Shaun Alexander having a good day running, find a way to win in the end. In a miraculous finish, Alabama took advantage of a muffed Florida punt return to tie the game and then won it in overtime when the Tide got a second chance on an extra point kick.

A few hours after the game I ran into Kenny. He said, “You did a good job on your game preview. We need to have you on full time.”

One of the things I admired most about him was around Bryant-Denny Stadium, seeing him sign autographs with patience and charm.

BamaMag.com writer A.P. Steadham has spent hours interviewing former NFL players on the issue of Stabler not yet being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Just a couple of days ago I told A.P. that Kenny would probably buy him “a good cigar.” Following wins over Tennessee, A.P. is known for his wooden tip variety celebratory stogy.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban on Thursday said, “I think anyone who had the chance to get to know Kenny would appreciate the great person he was and the pride he had for The University of Alabama.

“I have had the chance to be around some of the best to ever play college and pro football, and Kenny may have been one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game.

“I was lucky enough to work with him on our radio broadcast my first year in Tuscaloosa and also have some special memories with him at a couple of our golf events.

“He was not only an outstanding football player, he was an all-around great guy and someone I really enjoyed spending time with. We lost a legend today and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Tide Athletics Director Bill Battle said, “I am very sad to hear of the death of Ken Stabler. While there have been many outstanding players in our great football history at Alabama, I think it´s safe to say that few – if any – connected with our fans in the way that Kenny did. He´s one of the few quarterbacks to win a national title in college and a Super Bowl in the pros in a career that ranks among the best of anyone to play the game. He was an Alabama man through and through. The thoughts and prayers of all of us in the Alabama Family are with Kenny, his family, and all who knew and loved him.”

His death also drew comments from those in the Oakland Raiders organization, where he was a Super Bowl winning quarterback.

“The Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ken Stabler,” said Owner Mark Davis. “He was a cherished member of the Raider family and personified what it means to be a Raider. He wore the Silver and Black with Pride and Poise and will continue to live in the hearts of Raider fans everywhere. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to Kenny’s family.”

Stabler’s coach of the Raiders, John Madden, said, “I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there and he led us to a whole bunch of victories including one in Super Bowl XI. I've often said, If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler. Kenny loved life. It is a sad day for all Raiders.”

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