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Steve Sabol of NFL Films dies at 69

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By PFW staff

Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films, died of brain cancer on Tuesday at the age of 69.

“Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “Steve’s passion for football was matched by his incredible talent and energy. Steve’s legacy will be part of the NFL forever. 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 worked for his father and founder of NFL Films, Ed Sabol, beginning in 1964 as a cinematographer, and eventually took over the company. Steve introduced his father during Ed’s enshrinment to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Steve Sabol won over 40 Emmy awards and oversaw 107 Emmys for NFL Films. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for “revolutionizing the way America watches football and setting the standard in sports filmmaking.”

Sabol received the Pete Rozelle Award, given each year to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the NFL and to professional football. In November of 2011, Steve and his father, Ed, were inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, and Steve was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in December.

Steve Sabol and NFL Films broke ground as the first to wire players for coaches and sound. Sabol’s work with NFL Films has helped revolutionize the way we watch football.

Statement from Colts owner Jim Irsay: "With the passing of Steve Sabol, this is a sad day for football fans everywhere.  As someone who grew up watching NFL Films creations, I can attest to Steve’s vision and contribution to the incredible popularity of this sport.  His, along with his father, Ed’s, creativity and passion for the game cultivated many, many avid fans.  On behalf of the entire Colts organization I send our sympathy to the Sabol family and his colleagues at NFL Films."

Statement from the NFLPA: "Steve Sabol leaves a lasting impact on the National Football League that will be felt for a long time to come. His vision and innovation helped make him a pioneer the likes of which the NFL has never seen before and won’t see again. The Players of the NFL are indebted to Steve for his immense contributions to advancing our game and helping make the fan experience as great as it is. He was also a true friend of the Players. Our entire Player community will miss Steve, his brilliance and his warmth. He, and his father before him, linked generations of fans to generations of Players. We send our thoughts and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. He was truly one of a kind."

Steelers president Art Rooney II: "Steve Sabol was a dear friend to the Rooney Family and he will be missed by the entire NFL community. The impact that Steve Sabol and his father Ed have had on the NFL in creating and growing NFL Films will continue to be enjoyed for years to come by NFL fans everywhere. He was a genius in his work, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family."

Redskins owner Dan Snyder: “Steve Sabol, along with his Hall of Fame father, Ed, introduced the world to the great game of football by capturing every essence of the players, coaches and fans. Everyone has benefitted from Steve and NFL Films’ contribution to the game and we are forever grateful. Steve was the voice of the NFL and his shoes are impossible to fill. Our love, thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt: “Today, the Chiefs family and the entire National Football League mourn the loss of Steve Sabol – a dear friend, a true visionary and one of pro football's biggest fans. We are deeply saddened by Steve's passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Sabol family in this extremely difficult time. With his limitless passion and unparalleled ability as a storyteller, Steve captured the essence and emotion of our sport, and it was through his eyes and through his lens that we watched pro football become America's game. Steve and his father, Ed, chronicled and immortalized pro football’s greatest moments, including the iconic footage of Hank Stram from Super Bowl IV. Steve's artistry as a filmmaker gave an unforgettable, cinematic history of the NFL to an entire generation of fans. But beyond his tremendous contributions to the game, Steve was a remarkable man and a cherished friend who will be greatly missed by our family and all who were blessed to know him.”

Falcons: "The Atlanta Falcons were saddened today to hear of Steve Sabol’s passing. Steve was a uniquely talented man whose passion for the game was clearly depicted in his work at NFL Films.  As important, he presented the NFL in a way that inspired passion in others. On behalf of Owner & Chairman Arthur M. Blank, President & CEO Rich McKay, Head Coach Mike Smith, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, and every associate in our club, we extend our deepest condolences to Steve’s family, including his NFL Films family."

Jets owner Woody Johnson: “Words cannot truly express what Steve Sabol has meant to this game. His legacy will not only be the exemplary work done by NFL Films, but the unwavering passion and dedication he devoted to the game he loved. We were fortunate enough to see firsthand how Steve turned his vision into something people enjoyed and brought out the best in everyone. This is a sad day for the entire NFL, but also one where we are given pause to reflect on a life full of accomplishment.”

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