Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series acquainting fans with the Raiders’ illustrious 60-year history as the team moves to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
It was five years ago this month that Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler died of colon cancer. That day I somewhat reluctantly reached out to his former longtime understudy for comment.
David Humm, a Las Vegas native who began his long career as an NFL backup holding the clipboard as “The Snake” slithered up and down pockmarked fields of yesteryear, was in failing health, too.
Would his mentor’s passing only remind him of his own mortality?
Not a chance.
Humm filibustered about his old friend and soon-to-be Hall of Famer, and the only tears were of laughter. He filled up an entire microcassette with left-handed compliments and bawdy Ken Stabler anecdotes for a tribute column.
Here are sanitized excerpts of five that made it past the censors on the copy desk:
1. Humm said he made the mistake of going along for the ride with Stabler and some of the other Raiders desperadoes of their era after they went over the wall at training camp during his rookie season. Let’s just say Humm’s passes the next day weren’t as sharp. “We were both kids, and he took me under his wing,” Humm said. “But I drove my own car after that.”
ken stabler catching air and smoking dart pic.twitter.com/TGCgEnAuUd
— jace (@jaceinurface) July 29, 2020
2. The Snake kept snake oil (Wild Turkey) and a pouch of Red Man tobacco in his locker, Humm said. Sometimes when Humm and the other backups were getting reps, Stabler would sneak off before returning to the field with a wild look in his eye. “You didn’t,” Humm would say. The Snake would say he did, and then he would put one right on Dave Casper’s numbers.
I don't know what's going on here, but the Snake reading the newspaper in a workshop is about as manly as it gets. pic.twitter.com/IiUqRIh5ET
— 1970s Football (@1970sFootball) July 30, 2020
3. It was mentioned to Humm that whenever it seemed the Raiders were in trouble and John Madden’s hair was flying all over the place, it seemed Stabler would do what Stabler did. And nine plays and 72 yards later, the Raiders would be in the end zone, and the other side would be out of timeouts. Said Humm: “He was the toughest guy I ever met; he was the coolest guy I ever met. He never got rattled.”
He definitely is a one of a kind, certainly one of the BEST QB’s we’ve been blessed to have alongside Jim Plunkett who of course won 2 SB’s but Ken Stabler was just the man you wanted in a pressure cooker of a situation. No wonder he was Madden’s go to man. #Snake 🐍1️⃣2️⃣ pic.twitter.com/nQDn9UHDuj
— 🏴English🌹 Raiderette 🖤 🏴☠️☠️⚔🏈 (@SilverNBlackJWB) July 29, 2020
4. Not even when his bell got rung like those in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Humm recalled one game where blood was trickling from the ear hole of Stabler’s helmet, and Humm thought perhaps he should begin to warm up. In so many words (but not these), Stabler told him to put his headset back on. Humm did, and Madden’s hair stopped flying.
— JMRaider (@KSJM_12_72) July 22, 2020
5. Ken Stabler was 69 when he died. I wrote that he had lived hard, colorfully and long, all things considered. “But not long enough,” said David Humm, who would lose his decades long battle with multiple sclerosis three years later.
— CJ (@Errickson_NFL) July 30, 2020