It goes without saying that Kenny Stabler was one of football's greatest characters, and one of the most popular to play for the University of Alabama.
But he also had an amazing career.
Stabler was a highly regarded high school player, and it was after a long, winding touchdown run for Foley High School that coach Denzel Hollis first called him “Snake.”
Although at times Stabler gave Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant fits, prompting the quote: “You just can’t tell about left-handed crapshooters and quarterbacks,” he compiled a starting record of 28-3-2, including a dominating 34-7 victory against Nebraska in the 1967 Sugar Bowl to be named the game’s most valuable player.
Stabler was selected in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft, and made his first mark as a professional in a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After relieving Daryle Lamonica, he scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard scramble, only to see the Steelers come back to win on a controversial, deflected pass from Terry Bradshaw to Franco Harris, forever known as “The Immaculate Reception.”
It was only one of many times Stabler was involved in a game that was decided by a spectacular play. For example, in the 1967 Iron Bowl, his dramatic run in the mud (which Auburn fans claim should have been nullified by ignored penalties), was the difference in the 7-3 victory. With the bad-boy Raiders, he was on the throwing end of the Sea of Hands, Holy Roller, and Ghost to the Post.
During his 10 seasons with Oakland (1970-79), he was the league’s offensive player of the year in 1974, and both the player of the year and passing champion in 1976. Named All-Pro three times, he became the Raiders’ all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards and touchdowns. Stabler also led Oakland to a 32-14 victory against Minnesota in Super Bowl XI.
“The worst thing I could do would be to let my guys see me with a worried look,” Stabler said before the game. “I’m not a worrier anyway. I’m really relaxed and loose on the field, no matter how tense things are. Sometimes I think of all the things that could go wrong if I screw up. But then I know that I’m not going to, so it ain’t no big deal.”
After his playing days, Stabler became a very popular and informative analyst for the Alabama Football Radio Network. He also became a legend, both with the Crimson Tide and with the Raiders.
“There is no way to describe the pride an Alabama player feels in himself and the tradition of the school,” Stabler said.
This past season, the "NFL 100 Greatest" counted down the top 100 characters in NFL history, and the former Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints quarterback landed at No. 21.
Today would have been Stabler's 74th birthday.
Below is a progressive look at Kenny during his Alabama years. The photos and write ups are from various media guides.