Ken Stabler among those elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
SAN FRANCISCO – The late Ken Stabler, who led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl glory in 1977, has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The announcement was made Saturday at the NFL Honors awards presentation — a black-tie gala the day before the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos face off in the Super Bowl — at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.
The class of 2016 consists of owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., coach Tony Dungy, quarterback Brett Favre, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, tackle Orlando Pace, Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel.
Stabler, who died in July from cancer, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, researchers at Boston University said Wednesday. CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease that can manifest in depression, disorientation and aggression. Scientists believe repeated head trauma causes CTE. It’s only diagnosable post-mortem.
Several former NFL players, including some prominent members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, have been found to have had CTE.
That includes Hall of Fame class of 2015 member Junior Seau, who was 43 when he killed himself in May 2012 with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Mike Webster, the Pittsburgh Steelers center who was profiled in the movie “Concussion,” was the first former NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE. He died from a heart attack at age 50.
Possibly the most well-known person to have had CTE was Hall of Famer and revered sportscaster Frank Gifford; he died from natural causes in August at age 84.
In October, Boston University and Department of Veterans Affairs researchers said 87 out of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains to science after death tested positive for CTE.
Stabler, nicknamed “The Snake,” led the Raiders to a 32-14 victory against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977. He is the Raiders’ all-time leading passer, was a four-time Pro Bowler and was named the 1974 NFL Most Valuable Player.
He died in July from colon cancer at age 69. Before his death, Stabler requested his brain be removed during an autopsy and taken to researchers in Massachusetts.
Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and expert in neurodegenerative disease at Boston University School of Medicine, was part of the team that analyzed Stabler’s brain. She said Stabler wanted it studied because he was having difficulty with impulse control in his 50s and developed memory problems and suffered from headaches in his 60s.
McKee noted that studying Stabler’s brain was informative because some assume that quarterbacks receive fewer hits, thus putting them at a lesser risk.
“It shows that even playing quarterback — and if you play a number of years — that you’re at risk for developing this disease,” McKee said.