Legendary quarterback Kenny Stabler’s death has now been confirmed by his family.
Rumors that Stabler had died at the age of 69 spread on social media after the Tuscaloosa News posted a story Thursday afternoon.
The story was then deleted from the paper’s website.
Stabler, nicknamed “The Snake,” played at the University of Alabama and then for the Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints.
Here’s what you need to know about Stabler:
1. The Tuscaloosa News Said the Story Was ‘Inadvertently’ Posted
The Tuscaloosa News said in a correction:
Preparing to report on an unconfirmed but wide and persistent rumor that former Alabama football player Kenny Stabler had died, tuscaloosanews.com inadvertently and briefly published an incomplete story that we were preparing in the event that the story was confirmed. At this time, it is not confirmed. Unfortunately, other news outlets used social media to share the report. We regret the error and any emotional distress caused to Stabler’s family, friends and fans.
The reporter on the story, Aaron Suttles, gave his explanation on what happened on Twitter:
Early this afternoon I received confirmation that former University of Alabama quarterback and Oakland Raider great Kenny Stabler passed away in Gulfport, Miss. My news organization, The Tuscaloosa News, requires that I obtain two, independent sources before I report any news. Being correct always takes precedent over being first in our newsroom. While I attempted to obtain the second, independent source, our web administrator accidentally published a rough draft of my story. He quickly realized his error, and took the story down immediately. Unfortunately our system is set up to tweet any new stories that are published. By the time the story was deleted, the tweet had gone out and the cat was out of the bag.
I’ve worked my entire career to earn your trust. I apologize that we failed you today. But most of all I apologize to the Stabler family. There is no excuse for what happened today. Our news organization takes full responsibility for our error.
A post this morning on the Alabama fan site BamaOnLine said Stabler had been hospitalized in Gulfport, Mississippi and passed away there.
The story was later confirmed by local news stations, which spoke to Stabler’s ex-wife, family and charity foundation.
2. Stabler Was a High School Football Star in Alabama & Played for Bear Bryant
Stabler was a high school football standout at Foley High School in Alabama, according to the Tuscaloosa News. He then went on to play for three seasons at the University of Alabama, where he was the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback for two years.
Stabler was forced to sit on the sidelines during his first year at Alabama, because of NCAA rules at the time, and watched as Joe Namath led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship. He then split time during his sophomore year with Steve Sloan, according to the Bryant Museum website.
He became the full-time starter and led Alabama to an 11-0 season in 1966, including a rout of Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl, but the Crimson Tide finished the season ranked third, behind Notre Dame and Michigan State.
Alabama went 8-2-1 during his senior season, but it was during the rivalry game against Auburn University that year that he completed one of the most memorable plays in school history, known as the “Run in the Mud.” The Bryant Museum website explains the play: “The two arch rivals were played during a torrential downpour on a very muddy Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Trailing 3-0, Stabler broke loose for a 47 yard touchdown run behind great blocking to seal the 7-3 victory.”
Watch video of the play below:
Stabler earned All-Southeastern Conference and All-American team selections in 1967. He finished his Crimson Tide career completing 180 of 303 passes, with 16 touchdowns. He also ran for 838 yards and rushed for nine touchdowns.
3. He Led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl Victory in 1977
Stabler was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1968 NFL draft. He would play for 15 seasons, including 10 with the Raiders, according to NFL.com.
In 1977, he led Oakland to a Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
He left the Raiders after the 1979 season, and played for two years with the Houston Oilers and three years with the New Orleans Saints before hanging up his cleats.
Stabler finished his career with 194 touchdowns, 222 interceptions and 27,398 passing yards, according to the NFL’s website.
He is not in the Hall of Fame, though there have been many calls for him to be enshrined in Canton and he has often been called one of the best NFL players not in the Hall.
The New York Times broke down Stabler’s Hall of Fame credentials in 2012. Andy Barall, of the Times’ Fifth Down Blog, wrote about Stabler:
Perceptions of Stabler illustrate the inevitable gap between history and memory. He tends to be remembered in the glow of all those important and exciting games the Raiders were a part of in those years and the pivotal role he played in them. The Sea of Hands. The Ghost to the Post. The Holy Roller.
A successful NFL career is usually the product of a combination of talent, hard work, and a little good fortune in being in the right situation. In Oakland, Kenny Stabler was the starting quarterback on a football dynasty. He was surrounded by some of the greatest players and coaches of his time. For all his achievements, he should’ve been better, for longer. He should’ve been a Hall of Famer.
4. He Became a Broadcaster After Retiring & His Alabama Charity Raised Thousands Through Celebrity Golf Tournaments
Stabler entered the broadcast booth after his NFL playing career ended. He worked as a color commentator on CBS during NFL broadcasts, and later on the radio during Alabama football games until 2008.
Stabler also started the XOXO Stabler Foundation.
“The XOXO Stabler Foundation’s mission for a Game Plan for Hope brings caring and focused people together to build awareness and bring funding and Hope to a variety of causes,” the charity’s website says.
The charity has raised thousands of dollars, with most of the money going to the Ronald McDonald House of Mobile, through an annual celebrity golf tournament in Point Clear, Alabama.
5. He Was Married 3 Times & Has 3 Daughters
Stabler was married three times, first to Isabel Clark in 1968. After divorcing Clark in 1971 he married Debbie Fitzsimmons in 1974. They were divorced in 1978. He then married former Miss Alabama Rose Molly Burch in 1984. They divorced in 2002.
He has three daughters, Kendra, Alexa and Marissa.