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."