Beloved College Football Figure Dies

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A beloved member of the University of Alabama football program has died.

John Mark Stallings died early Saturday at age 46. According to the family, the younger Stallings was born with Down syndrome and suffered from health problems related to a congenital heart defect.

John Mark was the son of former Crimson Tide and Texas A&M Coach, Gene Stallings.

And he had accompanied his dad to almost every practice and game.

Players, coaches and fans loved him so much that the athletic training facility at Alabama is named in his honor.

"There weren't any lives he touched that weren't made better by his influence," Linda Knowles,Gene Stallings' secretary at Alabama said of John Mark. "He loved life, and he loved Alabama football."

"He was such a people person, and he grew up in the public spotlight," said Leigh Pate, the service coordinator at Rise School of Tuscaloosa. "He'd come up and introduce himself to someone he'd never met, `Hi, I'm John Mark Stallings.'

Gene and John Mark appeared on The 700 Club in 1997.

"If I could go back and the good Lord would give me an option and he'd say 'I could give you a perfectly normal healthy boy, or I'm gonna give you Johnny,' I'd take Johnny every time," he said.

Gene detailed his son's story in the book, Another Season.

The funeral service is to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 5 p.m. at Lamar Avenue Church of Christ in Paris, Texas.

Sources: The Associated Press, The Birmingham News

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