The Foley, AL born native was nominated for the first time through the Seniors Committee (players retired for more than 25 years) in August 2015. He was a Modern Era candidate finalist three times (1990, 1991 & 2003). He competed for 15 years in the NFL most notably with the Oakland Raiders winning the 1974 NFL MVP Award (Associated Press), 1976 Player of the Year Award (Bert Bell), earning All-Pro Honors (1974) and leading the AFC Western Division team to victory in Super Bowl XI. The 1968 second round NFL Draft choice also played for the Houston Oilers (1980 & 1981) and New Orleans Saints (1982-84), retiring at age 39. He was chosen a Pro Bowler four times (1972, 1974, 1976 & 1977).
He was one of the most beloved figures ever to play in the NFL. One of the honor badges Stabler earned as quarterback endeared him to players, coaches, fans and even the opponents he regularly defeated. The fearless left-hander embodied the virtues of grace under pressure. When the game was in peril and the clock ticking towards double zero, Stabler embraced the role of orchestrating a miraculous victory. He was credited with 19 fourth quarter comebacks and 26 game winning drives. Stabler finished with a .661 career winning percentage at retirement, just behind Pro Football Hall of Fame members and fellow 1970’s All-Decade quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw (.667) and Roger Staubach (.746).
Raiders Coach John Madden, a connoisseur of quarterbacks, remarked at the time of Stabler’s death, “I've often said, if I had one drive to win a game to this day, 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 Kenny, you think about the Raiders.” Tom Brady just recently equaled a record set by Stabler 38 years ago between 1973 and 1977 – leading a team to five consecutive conference championships.
Twin 17-year old grandsons, Justin a safety and Jack Moyes a wide receiver at Chaparral HS (AZ), represented the family during the CBS Nationally televised broadcast and press conference. “It’s very emotional. It’s a huge deal,” remarked Justin. “We were too young to ever watch him play but after all this you kind of realize how big his career was and how special a man he was and how many lives he touched. We’re really grateful to be part of his life. This is such a cool experience.”
Stabler made an indelible impact on those around him including his grandsons or “grandsnakes” as they are affectionately called. They both proudly wore a precious family heirloom on this night – an Alabama National Championship (1965) and Super Bowl XI ring respectively. “It wasn’t specifically that he told me (about football) but the way he treated everyone and the kind of man he was is someone I want to be the rest of my life,” said Justin. “He was just a down to earth good guy. I will try to be like him the rest of my life.”
Reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame was not a preoccupation for the “Cool Hand Luke” of quarterbacks. “He did not really talk too much to us about the Hall of Fame but I know it would mean a lot to him if he finally got in which he finally is,” said Jack. “I know he’s smiling right now. But no, he never brought it up. Never said he was disappointed that he didn’t make it but I bet it crossed his mind.”
Stabler lost his battle with Stage 4 colon cancer on July 8th. Ever the perfect team player, he authorized the donation of his brain to Boston University for research of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease stemming from repeated blows to the head. The results released on Wednesday revealed he suffered from Stage 3 CTE.
Former Oakland Raiders Coach John Madden has been asked by Stabler’s daughters Kendra, Marissa and Alexa to present their father at the enshrinement ceremony scheduled for Canton, Ohio on August 6th. He played with a flair and panache, famous for dramatic finishes. Ironically, his demise may have spurred the groundswell of support launching “Snake” into the hallowed Pro Football Hall of Fame. He follows fellow Alabama Crimson Tide quarterbacks Bart Starr (1977) and Joe Namath (1985) into gridiron immortality.
Listen and watch the videos as former Oakland Raiders, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen and Tim Brown along with grandsons Justin and Jack Moyes chimed in with effusive praise and reverence for the legend forever known as Ken “Snake” Stabler.