Saturday, August 2, 2008


Saturday brings those of us in the Alabama family really sad news. John Mark Stallings (pictured center with Hootie Ingram to his right and his father Gene Stallings to his left) passed away early today.
John Mark was a living symbol of parental love. He was also more than that. He was a living breathing miracle. Even before his birth, the odds were against him medically and socially. God had a different plan.
My faith is based on God placing us in situations and never giving us more than He knows we can handle. God placed John Mark in the Stallings home and for 46 years... Ruth Ann and Gene loved on him and made everyday one full of glory.
I was a young, single sports reporter when I first met Gene Stallings and his son. I learned lessons watching their relationship that I still use with my 7 and 3 year old 15 years later. If God called my kids to heaven tomorrow, I hope all of you would instantly think about how much I love Harper and Carter.
Today, when I heard the news, my first thought was what a great father, son relationship. There is a biblical lesson in Gene's and John Mark's relationship. To the world, John Mark had many shortcomings... but to his parents John Mark was pure and whole. We are just like John Mark in our Christian faith. In this world, we have many shortcomings, but in God's eyes we are pure and whole.
When you watch a football game this fall... I hope you enjoy your teams touchdowns as much as John Mark enjoyed an Alabama touchdown. I hope you enjoy your teams victories the way John Mark enjoyed an Alabama win. I hope you have someone in your life that loves you as much and John Mark's family loved him.
Here is the official release from The University of Alabama:

Tuscaloosa, Ala. – John Mark Stallings, son of former University of Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings, died early Saturday morning. John Mark, who was born with Down syndrome and suffered from health problems related to a congenital heart defect, was 46.

"I've known John Mark Stallings his entire life," said Mal Moore, Director of Athletics at the University of Alabama. "I want to extend my deepest sympathy to Coach Stallings, Ruth Ann and the entire Stallings family. For someone who never played or coached a game, I think John Mark may have touched more Alabama fans than any other person ever did. I would like to thank the Stallings family for sharing their love for John Mark with all of us."

John Mark's story, detailed by his father in the book, "Another Season", served as an inspiration to millions. The University of Alabama football equipment room was formally dedicated as the "John Mark Stallings Equipment Room" on December 8, 2005. John Mark's courage and attitude had a positive impact on all who knew him. He also deeply affected Coach Stallings' perception of football, and the coach's approach on the field.

"I had a whole lot less tolerance for the gifted and a whole lot more tolerance for the guy that wasn't quite as gifted," Gene Stallings told a reporter in January of 2008. "With Johnny, I saw him struggle to walk, struggle to kick a ball, struggle to do everything that he did. So, I had a little tolerance for the guys that had to struggle. If you had talent and didn't lay it on the line, I didn't have much tolerance for you. The less talented guy can't play on Saturdays. But he can get you ready to play on Saturdays. I wanted the guys who played on Saturday to have an appreciation for that guy who got them there."

Funeral arrangements for John Mark Stallings are pending.


Southern Cheesehead said...

nicely done, Jimmy D...and it ministered to me!

Jules (Sporty Mama) said...

Beautifully written. Thank you.