Ed Sabol, NFL Films Founder, Dead at 98

The moviemaker was inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame for revolutionizing how the sport is presented

Last Updated: February 9, 2015 @ 4:29 PM

Ed Sabol, the founder of NFL Films, died Monday at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 98.

Sabol, most well-known for revolutionizing how the sport is presented on-air, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. During his tenure from 1964 to 1995, NFL Films won 52 Emmy Awards.

NFL.com first reported the news of his death.

Among innovations introduced during Sabol’s 30-year career included the first use of a microphone on coaches, referees and players during the live broadcast. The groundbreaking moves produced additional footage from the telecast including popular music, bloopers videos, recording pregame locker room speeches and reverse angle replays.

“We began making the game personal for the fans, like a Hollywood movie,” Sabol told The Associated Press before his Hall of Fame induction. “Violent tackles, the long slow spiral of the ball, following alongside the players as they sidestepped and sprinted down the field. The movie camera was the perfect medium at the time to present the game the way the fans wanted to see it.”

Stars of the sports industry mourned the filmmaker on Monday, including NFL Network host Rich Eisen, who tweeted: “One of the greatest contributors to the NFL and filmmaking as a whole, has died. Rest in peace, Ed.”

“Sadness continues: NFL films legend, HOFer and Steve Sabol’s father, Ed Sabol, has passed away at age 98. RIP,” wrote ESPN NFL analyst Adam Schefter.

The late Ohio State University alum served as president of NFL Films until 1985, when he turned it over to his son, Steve Sabol, who died of brain cancer in September 2012 at age 69. Both were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003.

Sabol, who was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, excelled in several different sports in his own right and set a World Interscholastic Swimming record in the 100-yard freestyle race. He was selected for the 1936 Olympic Games but refused to attend because they were held in Nazi Germany.

After serving in World War II, he returned to the U.S. and founded Blair Motion Pictures in 1962. Its first major contract was to film the  1962 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers in New York. In 1964, Blair Motion Pictures became NFL Films and secured an exclusive deal to preserve NFL games on film.


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