In the south, we love football, and we love our football players. Small town players who go on to play in college become stars when they’re home, and the ones who make it to the pros become heroes. Foley is fortunate enough to have several heroes that we call our own.
If you’ve watched any professional football at all, you’ve most likely heard of Julio Jones. He plays for the Atlanta Falcons now, but not too many years ago, he was number 82 for the Foley Lions. My son played with him, and with D.J. Fluker, who plays now for the San Diego Chargers. Robert Lester, who has played for the Carolina Panthers, was also in that group of kids. Years before Julio, though, Foley had another native son who was our football hero – Kenny “the Snake” Stabler. Finally, after all of these years, and after his recent death, the Snake may finally receive the recognition he deserves from the rest of the world.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler throws a pass past Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Dwight White during an AFC playoff game on Dec. 22, 1973. (AP Photo)
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When New England and Denver square off for the AFC championship on Sunday afternoon, Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Broncos will be opposing quarterbacks in a conference title game for the fourth time, breaking a record they held with three members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one other quarterback.
Stabler’s Oakland Raiders and Terry Bradshaw’s Pittsburgh Steelers collided in the AFC Championship Game for three consecutive seasons – 1974, 1975 and 1976. Bradshaw and the Steelers won the first two meetings and added a victory in the Super Bowl each season. Stabler and the Raiders got past Pittsburgh in the AFC title game for the 1976 season, then defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl.
The three conference championship game meetings of Stabler and Bradshaw were equaled by Dallas’ Troy Aikman and San Francisco’s Steve Young when the Cowboys and 49ers battled in the NFC title games for the 1992, 1993 and 1994 seasons. The Cowboys won the first two games. In each case, the NFC winner went on to capture the Super Bowl.
Brady and Manning have met in the AFC title games for the 2003, 2006 and 2013 seasons. Brady’s Patriots won the first game. Manning won with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 and the Broncos in 2013.
Here’s hoping the votes go your way, Snake.