Ken Stabler Ken Stabler (1945-2015) played quarterback for the University of Alabama (UA) in the 1960s and went on to play in the National Football League (NFL) with the Oakland Raiders and other teams. Stabler led teams to championships on both the collegiate and professional levels.
Ken Michael Stabler was born on December 25, 1945, in Foley, Baldwin County, to Sally and Leroy Stabler. Stabler attended Foley public schools, where he played multiple sports. As quarterback for the Foley Lions for three years, he led the team to a 29-1 record and three state championships and was named to the All-State team. Stabler acquired the nickname “Snake” for his ability to run around the defense on the football field. He also excelled in basketball and baseball, receiving contract offers from both the New York Yankees and Houston Astros.
Ken Stabler and the Tide in the Sugar Bowl Stabler opted to pursue football and in 1964 accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, then coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant. Freshmen were ineligible to play at the time, so Stabler watched Joe Namath lead UA to a national championship. In 1965, he shared quarterback duties with Steve Sloan, and the team won a second consecutive national title with a 39-28 Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska. In 1966, Stabler led UA to an 11-0 season and another win over Nebraska, this time in the Sugar Bowl, but UA finished third in the final polls behind Notre Dame and Michigan State.
Stabler’s senior season ended with an 8-2-1 record and included his memorable 47-yard “Run in the Mud” for a touchdown that sealed a 7-3 victory over archrival Auburn University in a torrential downpour in the Iron Bowl. Stabler was named both an All-Southeastern Conference and All-American player that year. During his college career, Stabler completed 180 of 303 passes for 59.4 percent record, with 16 touchdowns. He also rushed for 838 yards on 365 attempts and scored nine rushing touchdowns.
Ken Stabler’s Run in the Mud In 1968, Stabler was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the NFL draft. He served as back-up to Daryle Lamonica for four years, becoming the starting quarterback in 1973. Stabler signed with the Birmingham Americans franchise of the upstart World Football League in 1974, but the league folded before he could play. He thus remained with the Oakland Raiders and was named the AFC Player of the Year in 1974 and 1976, and as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press in 1974. Stabler also won the Hickok Belt in 1976 as professional athlete of the year and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1974, 1976, and 1977. In January 1977, Stabler and the Raiders defeated the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI. Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers in 1979, where he played the 1980 and 1981 seasons, then to the New Orleans Saints, where he played three years before retiring after the 1984 season. Over his career, he played in 184 games and completed 2,270 out of 3,793 passes for 27,938 yards with 194 touchdowns.
Stabler has the distinction of causing a rule change, prompted by his intentional fumbling of the ball toward the line of scrimmage during a 1978 game against the San Diego Chargers. Other players also “fumbled” the ball forward until it was recovered in the end zone by Raiders tight end Dave Casper for a 21-20 win. NFL rules already prohibited intentionally fumbling the ball forward, but league officials later amended the rule to say that only the offensive player fumbling the ball can both recover and advance it, an amendment often referred to as the “Ken Stabler Rule.”
After his playing career ended, Stabler worked as a television color commentator for CBS and TNT for NFL games and had radio shows in Oakland and New Orleans. He worked from 1998 through the 2007 season as the color analyst of the University of Alabama football radio broadcasts. Stabler was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. Stabler was married three times and has three daughters. In 2006, he authored a children’s book titled Roll Tide! He lived during retirement in Gulf Shores, Baldwin County, and was a frequent speaker at events and sponsors an annual charity golf event. Stabler died in Gulfport, Mississippi, on July 9, 2015. His brain and spinal cord were donated to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at Boston University to aid in research on degenerative brain disease among athletes.
Stabler, Ken, and Tom LaMarre. Ken Stabler’s Winning Offensive Football. Chicago: Regnery, 1976.
Stabler, Ken, and Dick O’Connor. Super Bowl Diary, Autobiography of Ken “The Snake” Stabler. Los Angeles: Pinnacle Books, 1977.
Stabler, Ken, and Barry Steinbeck. Snake: The Candid Autobiography of Football’s Most Outrageous Renegade. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986.