Steve Sabol, who turned his NFL Films company into a growing family business, has died at the age of 69. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer in March 2011.
“Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we look at football and sports, and a great friend.”
Sabol was a football-playing art student with a flair for self-promotion when, in the fall of 1962, his father Ed called him home to Philadelphia from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, advising the young man that they, and a few others yet to be hired, would be filming the National Football League’s championship game that December.
At that point, Ed Sabol had never filmed a pro football game. He had not, in fact, filmed anything professionally. He had, mostly, filmed the Sabol family at leisure and at play, in large part Steve playing youth and high school football. Even so, he had convinced NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, primarily by doubling the previous year’s bid to $3,000, that he was just the man to record what would be the title game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.
For Ed Sabol, who had been peddling menswear for his father-in-law’s clothing factory, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and he wanted an idea man he could trust at his side.
Sabol is survived by his wife, Penny; their son, Casey; his sister, Blair; his mother, Audrey; and his father, Ed, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.