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“Sweet Home Alabama” and “Leaves Falling Down.”

Two songs that are notably played inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturdays in the fall, were the final two memories of legendary Alabama quarterback Kenneth “Ken” Stabler.

According to WFSA 12 News, the Stabler family confirmed that Kenneth died Wednesday of stage four colon cancer at age 69. His ex-wife, Rose Stabler and grandson Justin Moyes both confirmed his passing Thursday via the NBC Affiliate (Local 15 News) in Mobile, Ala.

Former Alabama players Julio Jones and D.J. Fluker both attended Foley (Ala.) High School, but its first great athlete was Kenneth Stabler. Stabler led the program to a 29-1 record in his career, and was a dynamic athlete in basketball, baseball and football.

A snake is a devious creature that takes advantage of small to moderate-sized rodents, yet the term took on a different meaning for Stabler. His nickname “The Snake” came from his coach, after displaying tremendous effort on a long touchdown run.

Stabler would later become one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Alabama history.

His athletic ability preceded him in the eyes of legendary head coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. Coach Bryant wasn’t reluctant in recruiting Stabler to Alabama, as he enrolled in 1964.

He served as a backup quarterback on two national championship teams (1964, 1965), until becoming a starter in 1966. Stabler guided Alabama to an undefeated season, culminating in a 34-7 victory over No.6-ranked Nebraska in the 1967 Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide went 8-2-1 in the 1967 season, however, Stabler’s most memorable play came as a senior.

Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., was ugly on Dec. 2, 1967, yet it did not stop Stabler from going all out for his team. His 53-yard touchdown run against Auburn delivered Alabama a 7-3 win in the Iron Bowl. The memory lives on in Alabama folklore simply as “Run In Mud.”

Stabler’s career in the National Football League was second to none.

The Oakland Raiders selected him second round (52nd overall pick) of the 1968 NFL Draft, and Stabler made the gamble pay off. He was selected to the Pro Bowl four times (1973-74, 1976-77), and was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year in 1974. Stabler led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1974 (26) and 1976 (27), the year everything fell into place for Oakland.

Stabler’s pin-point passing led the Raiders to a 13-1 season, resulting in a playoff berth.

Oakland met the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI (11) on Jan. 9, 1977. Stabler connected on 12 of 18 pass attempts for 180 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff and cornerback Willie Brown joined in the celebration with Stabler and Oakland’s head coach John Madden in the Raiders’ 32-14 victory over Minnesota. It was the team’s first Super Bowl title.

In 14 seasons (1970-84), Stabler would play for the Raiders, Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints. He compiled 27,938 passing yards, and was named to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. Stabler’s success earned him a nod from Football Nation as one of the 27 greatest quarterbacks of the post-merger era, but at his heart, Stabler was concerned about others.

His personality was captivating on the big screen, as he was featured in movies, video games, television shows and sports commentary. Stabler’s appearances on Married…With Children and Saturday Night Live were both fan favorites. He even teamed up with Mascots Books in September 2006, to publish his first children’s book, Roll Tide! 

Stabler served as chairman of the XOXO Stabler Foundation.

His celebrity golf tournaments have helped raise nearly $600,000 to help serve families of seriously ill and injured children at the Ronald McDonald House in Mobile, Ala.

A legend and a quality human being. These are two of three characteristics that describe Stabler, and the third is a fighter. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2015.

Stabler battled with it for five months, until Wednesday. Numerous conflicting stories were reported concerning his well-being, before the Stabler family confirmed the final verdict.

Sadly, all Alabama fans have to come to grips with the truth.

A familiar face, an icon and one of the pioneers of Crimson Tide football is gone. Stabler’s spirit will live on through his three daughters, Kendra, Alexa and Marissa.

His grandson, Justin Moyes, let Twitter and Instagram express his pain.

 

 

https://twitter.com/JackkMoyes/status/619313251273191424

https://instagram.com/p/47uTn_SlT0/

 

Coach Paul Bryant and Stabler were like father and son.

Both were mentioned in the same breath, and they enjoyed being champions. Stabler embodied Bryant’s winning mentality, and Bryant wanted to see his players at their best.

Bryant’s death gripped the hearts of Alabama fans in 1983, and now 33 years later, its attention turns to one of the greatest athletes of his era, Kenny Stabler.

Outsiders will remember the player, but Crimson Tide fans and the Stabler family will remember the person Kenneth Stabler was. He and coach Bryant can now rest together.

 

Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

 

 

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Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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