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Steve Sabol: 1942-2012

Posted Sep 18, 2012

NFL Films President Steve Sabol passed away Tuesday at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer.

NFL Films President Steve Sabol died Tuesday after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. He was 69 years old.

“Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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.”

The Colorado College alum began his career in 1964 as a cinematographer working for his father, Ed Sabol, the founder of NFL Films.

Thirty-nine years later -- in 2003 -- Steve and Ed Sabol were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for “revolutionizing the way America watches football and setting the standard in sports filmmaking.”

NFL Films has won more than 100 Emmys, and Steve Sabol received 35 of the awards for writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producting.

The Emmys were just a few of the many awards Sabol received over the course of his career, including the Pete Rozelle Award and the Dan Reeves Pioneer Award. Sabol was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame last December.

Below is NFL Network's obituary on the remarkable life of Sabol, and the tremendous impact he had on the NFL, in its entirety:

NFL Films is more than a production company, it's an institution. The life's work of Steve Sabol, a football player turned artist who transformed American television for half a century.

In 1962, Ed Sabol won the rights to film the league's championship game and NFL Films was born. In a sense, so was Steve, who was there that freezing day at Yankee Stadium working as a cameraman. For the next 50 years, he never stopped working for the NFL.

Few men in the League have ever had a longer run. None has ever had a better one. He was the game's first quintuple threat. An Emmy-winning auteur who won statuettes for cinematography, editing, writing, directing and producing. The only man ever to be so honored.

But it wasn't hardware that Steve loved, it was the game. And he saw it as no one ever had. Through the eyes of an artist. With an unerring eye for detail, and a pitch perfect ear, Steve quickly transformed NFL Films from simple chroniclers of the game, to epic myth makers. And he did it, as all great artists do, by taking chances.

Super slow motion, wireless mics on players, reverse angle replays, follies films, and custom composed musical scores. All that's standard stuff today, but before NFL Films it was unheard of. But then, Steve never thought like a sports filmmaker, he thought like a Hollywood storyteller. Big, bold, honest, and, funny. Those were the hallmarks of Steve's work. And Steve himself.

Across fifty years, and tens of thousands of programs, there was one constant at NFL Films: Steve Sabol. He was one of that now rare breed of executive who not only had done every job in the company at one time or another, but could still do any of them better than most. More than the company's head, he was its heartbeat.

Last summer, Steve presented his father for induction into Pro Football's Hall of Fame. Big Ed, reminded the crowd that his motto was: “Tell me a story and it'll live forever.” Like any good son, Steve always listened to his father. Then worked until he became the greatest storyteller the NFL has ever known. But he also listened to his heart. And by turning to the game he loved, he also embraced a piece of wisdom he learned while studying art at Colorado college. Art is love’s accomplice, take love away and there is no art. Steve Sabol knew that better than anyone.

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