Kenny Stabler was true free spirit at Alabama, Oakland

Kenny Stabler led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl championship after the 1976 NFL season. (AP photo)

Kenny Stabler was one of the first quarterbacks I remember seeing play.

He was in the NFL by then, and although it might be tough to think judging by recent years, the Oakland Raiders were one of the best teams in the league back then. They were on TV a lot in the 1970s — especially considering only 2-3 games were shown a week — especially when they played the Broncos or the Steelers.

Stabler died Thursday night.

Stabler was a free spirit, a freelancer, a guy who I think would excel in today’s spread option offenses. Think Johnny Manziel with Kenny Rogers’ hair cut and beard.

He gained his nickname — “The Snake” — for a winding run in high school and then managed to guide Bear Bryant’s offenses at Alabama in the 1960s. He was kicked off the team at one point, but then returned.

"He didn't show up for curfew, let's say that," former Alabama wide receiver Dennis Homan, Stabler's roommate, told "He probably had two or three women here or there. I know when they did bed check he wasn't there. I used to stuff his bed with pillows and had an old mop that I'd use as his head and was hoping they wouldn't catch it. After a while, they found out and it didn't work. Best thing that ever happened to him. When he came back, Snake was a lot more serious."

I love how a guy with a nickname was involved in so many famous plays that we know as the “Sea of Hands,” “Ghost to the Post,” “The Holy Roller” and “The Run in the Mud,” which beat Auburn 7-3 in 1967.