May 14, 2024 . 4 days ago

Gene Stallings and the Stallings Award: Honoring Inspiration On and Off the Field

The roar of the crowd, the thrill of victory, the sting of defeat – college football wouldn’t be the passionate American spectacle it is without legendary coaches. Among these greats stands Gene Stallings, a man whose impact reached further than the X’s and O’s on a chalkboard. His tenure at Texas A&M and the University of Alabama earned him a place in the College Football Hall of Fame. He is honored for his accomplishments both on the sidelines and within the community. The Stallings Award recognizes college coaches who are not only masters of strategy but also compassionate leaders dedicated to making a difference.


The Inspiration Behind the Stallings Award: Johnny Stallings and Johnny’s Kids

To better understand the Stallings Award, we want you to know the story of John Mark Stallings, Gene’s beloved son, affectionately known as Johnny. Johnny was born with Down Syndrome, a condition that presented challenges but also opened the Stallings family’s hearts to a world of unconditional love and a fierce desire for disability inclusion. 

Inspired by her brother, Laurie Vanderpool, co-founder of LiveBeyond, channeled this love into action. Her vision led to the creation of Johnny’s Kids, a LiveBeyond program designed to provide a nurturing, inclusive, and educational space where children of all abilities could learn and grow together. Johnny’s Kids embodies the belief that all children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential.


The Stallings Award: Celebrating Coaches Who Make a Difference

The Stallings Award carries a unique distinction in the world of college football. Rather than being decided by sports pundits or a voting committee, the selection process lies with the past award winners themselves. These previous honorees understand firsthand the demands of the sport and the character it takes to be truly impactful. They seek out those who, like Gene Stallings, exemplify a winning spirit. Those with an unwavering determination to give back to their communities. The award celebrates coaches who embody the best of both worlds. Those who shape their players not only into skilled athletes but also into upstanding citizens. 


2024 Stallings Award Recipient

This year’s 2024 Stallings Award recipient is Kalen DeBoer, head football coach at the University of Alabama. The Stallings Award serves as a testament to the idea that a true leader’s influence extends far beyond the playing field. It honors coaches who leave their mark on the game and within the hearts of those they touch. These individuals stand as impactful community members, demonstrating that inclusion, compassion, and acceptance create a playing field where everyone wins.


How to Get Involved

The heart behind the Stallings Award reminds us that we all have a role to play. We can all work for the betterment of our communities. We invite you to learn more about LiveBeyond and our Johnny’s Kids program as we champion opportunities for children with disabilities. Consider volunteering your time, making a donation, or helping raise awareness. Spread the message that every child deserves love, support, and a chance to shine.

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