He knew Stabler before most of the rest of us did.
He knew Stabler before the University of Alabama; before the Oakland Raiders; before the Houston Oilers; before the New Orleans Saints; before the legal trouble; before the broadcast career.
You see, in the early 1960s, Bill Quinney was a young assistant principal at Foley High School, way down in south Alabama where the dirt meets the Gulf Coast.
And one of Quinney's responsibilities as an assistant principal was discipline. You are starting to get the picture.
One of his students was this multi-talented, left-handed, three-sport athlete -- Ken Stabler, the pride of Foley High and a hell raiser from way back.
"I got some stories," Quinney said over the weekend. "Some I can tell you; some I can't."
"And I can tell you this, I liked Ken Stabler when he was in high school," Quinney said. "He always had a smile on his face -- now it was a devilish smile."
Like Stabler read an opposing defense, an assistant principal had to read a young Stabler, Quinney said.
"You had to read him a certain way, now," Quinney said. "Sometimes, you didn't know if he was conning you or what. I guess that's one of the things that made him such a good quarterback."
One of those times came when Quinney went into the school office and saw Stabler and one of his running buddies, a big offensive linemen, sitting there.
"I asked them what they were doing in here," Quinney said. "Ken just said they were waiting on the police chief. That is one of those stories I probably should not finish."
But Quinney was there when Stabler earned his nickname, one that stuck with him for the rest of his 69 years.
"We had an assistant coach named Densel Hollis," Quinney said. "One day he just called him Snake. He could just kind of glide through there like a snake when he was playing football."
The nickname fit like a glove.
Quinney followed Stabler's career from Alabama to the pros. And when he would see Stabler play on TV in a Super Bowl or a big game, Quinney could not help but think back to high school.
"You would see him playing for the Raiders, and those guys believed in him and followed him," Quinney said. "That's just the way it was at Foley High School."
About the time Stabler left Foley High for Alabama, Quinney left for Eufaula, Ala., where he had a distinguished 25-year career as principal at Eufaula High School. As he reflects on Stabler, Quinney now believes the hard-living, fiercely competitive quarterback was a product of his environment.
"The Coast is a different place," Quinney said. "It's not like Eufaula or some other places. Back then, there were so many things boys could get into down there that they couldn't get into in other places. And Snake got into about all of them."
Chuck Williams, senior reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org.