FOLEY – Whether a football fan or not, locals know the name Ken Stabler. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, Stabler is a well-known football legend from Foley, where his career began. In 2003, …
FOLEY – Whether a football fan or not, locals know the name Ken Stabler. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, Stabler is a well-known football legend from Foley, where his career began. In 2003, the Ken Stabler XOXO Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was created, and beginning in 2015 adopted the mission to raise funds and awareness for sports-related head trauma, such as Chronic Reoccurring Encephalopathy (CRE), a condition Stabler suffered from.
Coming up on Saturday, Aug. 25, the inaugural Ken Stabler Annual Gridiron Challenge is being played at Foley High School’s home field, Ivan Jones Stadium, in association with the foundation’s new XOXO Game Plan for Change initiative. With this initiative, the foundation is “focused on changing the course and culture of contact sports to increase sports safety and reduce brain trauma in athletes,” according to their website. “To facilitate change, the XOXO Stabler Foundation funds research on related brain diseases, methods of treatment and prevention, and educational outreach.”
The organization is also working to televise the Aug. 25 game, as they state that Raycom Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports televise high school games from across the country during that time. Though this hasn’t been confirmed, the organization is looking into making it happen.
This being the first year, there will only be two teams competing, though the foundation hopes to grow that to four or more teams in upcoming years. For the inaugural game, Mobile Christian will play against Pelahatchie, Mississippi.
“This will only be the first year of putting this together for the Stabler Foundation,” said David Thompson with the City of Foley. “We have a team already booked, so one of the two teams is 100% staying in Foley overnight. This is a scaled down version of what they want to strategically do, so this year is not indicative of what it will hopefully be as we move forward in the future.”
Due to a late start with procedures, Foley’s team is not able to participate this year as they were already booked to be somewhere else. For this first year, the City of Foley is offering to help the foundation with in-kind services, such as security and setup, to help offset some of their costs for hosting the event. Officials hope that next year Foley’s team will be able to participate in the event.
“The whole goal of this is to promote research for CTE, and I know they’re doing more,” said Thompson. “There’s a day in Sept. that they’re going to come to Foley High School and try to promote sports safety, and they’ll talk about it during the game as well. I believe there’ll be dignitaries there, such as Stabler’s family. So that’s it in a nutshell, it’s supporting one of our local hometown folks who started doing research to benefit cancer.”
Along with raising funds and awareness, the Ken Stabler XOXO Foundation also states that they want to help the area in the tourism department during a time when school has resumed and the season is down. If enough teams participate in the future, the foundation has stated an interest in playing games at the new Sports Fields near OWA in Foley. There could also be a local Battle of the Bands featuring the bands of the competing teams during halftime, where they can give a preview of their fall shows. There could potentially be more competitions, from a Ken Stabler Golf Tournament to a Youth Fishing Tournament.
For more information on the Ken Stabler XOXO Foundation, you can visit their website at KenStabler.com or you can find them on Facebook.