12 Days Away From Bama Kickoff: Ken Stabler
Each day counting down to Alabama's Week 1 matchup with Utah State, I will highlight a former player whose jersey number coincides with the amount of days until the game. In honor of 12 days until kickoff, let's look at one of the pillars of the Crimson Tide, Ken "Snake" Stabler.
Ken Stabler suited up at quarterback for the Bear Bryant led Crimson Tide from 1964-67, and is widely regarded today as one of the program's best signal callers ever.
A native of south Alabama, Stabler was an all around athlete in his time at Foley High School. He played varsity basketball, baseball and football, and excelled in each. On the court he was a complete scoring threat, averaging nearly 30 points per game, and on the diamond and gridiron he was head and shoulders above his competition.
He earned his now-famous nickname, "Snake," from his high school football coach after Stabler rattled off one of his trademark winding touchdown runs.
After a stellar four-years as a Foley Lion, he received a scholarship to play for Bryant and the Crimson Tide. Stabler was forced to play on the freshman team in his first season due to NCAA rules at the time, but took over as the backup to Steve Sloan in his sophomore year.
Alabama won its second consecutive national title that season, and "Snake" was in line to be the next starter.
In his first year as leader of the Tide, Stabler guided the team to an undefeated record, culminating with a dominant win over Nebraska in the 1966 Sugar Bowl. Despite the record and convincing bowl victory, Alabama was not picked as national champions, instead missing out to Notre Dame who had finished the year 9-0-1.
The Tide entered Stabler's final season with high expectations, but struggled to reach them as the year progressed. Alabama finished the year 8-2-1, dropping games to Tennessee and Texas A&M. While the result of the season was mostly disappointing, Stabler did provide Crimson Tide fans with one memory that will last forever.
In a sloppy, muddy game against the Auburn Tigers, Stabler mounted a game winning drive that ended in what would become known as, "The Run in the Mud." Down three points in the fourth quarter of a game that had seen zero touchdowns, the quarterback rolled out to his right and weaved through the Auburn defense for a 53-yard score that sealed a Crimson Tide victory.
In his time in Tuscaloosa, "Snake" compiled over 2,000 passing yards and nearly 1,000 as a rusher and was a First Team All-American in his final season. After his four years, Stabler was drafted in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
While his time with the Tide was certainly impressive, the quarterback really made his mark in Oakland. He spent ten seasons with the Raiders and helped guide the team to its first Super Bowl victory in 1976.
Knee injuries hampered his ability as a runner, but Stabler made up for it with pinpoint accuracy. He led the NFL in both passer rating and touchdowns in multiple seasons and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
After his playing career, Stabler joined the broadcast booth where he spent several seasons as a color commentator for CBS and then for Alabama Crimson Tide games. In 2003, he founded the XOXO Stabler Foundation which now works to raise funds for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) research after he was found to have been suffering from the disease following his passing in 2015.