Quarterback Ken Stabler
Rod Woodson vividly remembers the day he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He remembers the big details; he remembers the little details, but mostly he remembers being in awe that that his career had been regarded as one of the best in the history of professional football.
"It's so surreal when you go into the Hall, thinking that you're one of the best to ever don a pro uniform, because pro football has been played a long time, before the merger and all that other stuff," Woodson said. "Just being from a small town, thinking that you played football your whole life, and they thought you're one of the better ones to *ever *play this game, it's very surreal."
Now, after a wait that many thought to be too long, the family of Ken Stabler will have that feeling Saturday, as the former Raiders quarterback will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
"First of all, Kenny probably had, if not the best, one of the best nicknames in pro football history; 'The Snake,'" said Woodson. "I've been a Raiders fan forever, since I've been a kid. [It is] long overdue; I wish it would have happened when he was alive, but they're doing him justice, and I'm glad he's going in. He deserves it."
Stabler wore the Silver and Black for a decade, quarterbacking the team that beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 to win Super Bowl XI. Former teammate and Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff routinely witnessed "The Snake's" greatness – most notably, his penchant for the dramatic and ability to rise up in the biggest moments.
And in a situation to come back and win a football game, Biletnikoff would want nobody but Stabler under center.
"There was nobody better," Biletnikoff said. "He was just unbelievable. He came in so many times at crucial situations with us, and we were just waiting for him to come from the sideline, and when we would come in he would just take command. He had total command of the huddle. He would call the play, and we were in and out, lining up, and going down and, scoring. He just had such a talent to not only make big plays all the time, but to call the correct play, and that's the best thing he could do."
Stabler's love of life and having a good time has been well documented, but Biletnikoff believes that his personality is also what made him so great on the field.
"He knew how to use his personality on the field; [he knew] where you were going to be a success," Biletnikoff explained. "He was going to put you in the best situation, and all you had to do was execute what you had to do on the field. He was just a great field general, amazing. He just had that magnetism about him. He was just fantastic. We miss him dearly. "
Growing up in nearby Hayward, Calif., Head Coach Jack Del Rio remembers watching the Stabler-quarterbacked Oakland Raiders hit the field, and he believes that "The Snake's" induction will be a special moment for the entire Raider Nation to share.
"Very, very proud for the family," Del Rio said. "Very happy, very pleased for the Raider Nation. He's one of the all-time greats to play here. He did it and then he led this team, there were great teams. I think it's long overdue and I'm just happy that it did occur. It would have sure been nice for him to be there in person, but I know the family will be able to honor him and Raider Nation will be able to honor him. We're all obviously very proud, those of us that got a chance to see him play. It was special."
Woodson echoed Del Rio's sentiment, and expects there to be healthy Raiders' contingent in attendance Saturday when Stabler is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"The Silver and Black travel well," Woodson said. "So I'm expecting to see that on induction day we'll see a lot of Silver and Black jerseys out there."
Stabler and the rest of the eight-man Hall of Fame class will be inducted Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. PT.
The ceremony will be televised on NFL Network.