(Reuters) - Ken Stabler, a star NFL quarterback who led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl championship in 1977, has died at age 69, his family and the club said on Thursday.
The colorful player, who was nicknamed “The Snake” because of his running style, died on Wednesday of complications from colon cancer, which he was diagnosed with in February.
“He was a kind, generous and unselfish man, never turning down an autograph request or an opportunity to help someone in need. A great quarterback, he was an even greater father to his three girls and grandfather to his two ‘grand snakes,’” said the family statement posted on the Raiders’ website.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said the team was “deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ken Stabler,” adding he “personified what it means to be a Raider.”
Media reports said he died in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Stabler played with the Raiders through most of the 1970s. He then spent two years with the Houston Oilers before winding up his career with the New Orleans Saints in 1984.
In his 15 pro seasons, he threw for 194 touchdowns and 27,938 yards. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL player of the year in 1976. The Raiders that season compiled an overall 16-1 record, romping to a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the January 1977 Super Bowl championship game.
“I’ve often said, if I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny,” said John Madden, head coach of the Raiders when they won the Super Bowl and later a prominent broadcaster.
“Snake was a lot cooler than I was,” Madden added. “He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler. Kenny loved life. It is a sad day for all Raiders.”
Stabler, an Alabama native, also had a successful college career with Alabama’s “Crimson Tide,” where he played under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He quarterbacked the team to an undefeated season in 1966, capped by a 34-7 win over Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl.
His XOXO Stabler Foundation raised funds for causes such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Habitat for Humanity, according to its website.
Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Peter Cooney