Steve Sabol of NFL Films remembered as visual visionary

Steve Sabol, the co-founder of NFL Films, passed away on Tuesday. Sabol and his father Ed brought the personal touch to America's violent game and put their product into almost every American living room.

Tony Gutierrez/AP/File
NFL Films President Steve Sabol is pictured during an interview in Dallas in this 2011 file photo.

For any young pro football fan growing up in the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s, NFL Films was your cinematic-style ticket to an up close and personal look at the game.

Ed Sabol founded NFL Films in 1964, and along with son Steve, made it into the video and multimedia producing powerhouse it is today. NFL Films produces weekly NFL shows, team season highlight reels, and long-form profiles of NFL players and coaches.

Steve Sabol passed away on Tuesday after a long illness. Tributes to his NFL contributions are numerous.

"Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement to the Associated Press. "Steve's passion for football was matched only by his talent and energy. He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we looked at football and sports, and a great friend."

Former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann measured Sabol's impact on the NFL by referencing the human anatomy.

"When you look at NFL Films, you're really watching the blood flow through the veins of the NFL. And Steve was the heart," the Super Bowl champion told USA Today.

One constant memory for this writer was the first time seeing the NFL Films staple, "Football Follies." Watching footage of pro football players collide, fly through the air, or bobble the ball, set to music, made for an enjoyable viewing experience.

And the music, oh the music. NFL Films hired composer Sam Spence in the mid-1960s to come up with the melodies we've heard hundreds of times before with various game highlights and player profiles. Even today, you can hear NFL Films music used in other entertainment programs, like Nickelodeon's 'SpongeBob SquarePants.' The music, combined with the voices of veteran broadcasters like John Facenda, Harry Kalas, and Pat Summerall helped to tell the story of the National Football League.

Much of this would not have been possible without the artistic vision of Steve Sabol and the talented folks at NFL Films, who will now carry on in his memory.

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