NFL Films Founder Ed Sabol Passes Away at 98

NFL Films Founder Ed Sabol Passes Away at 98

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  • NFL Films Founder Ed Sabol passed away on Feb. 9 at the age of 98.
  • The cause of his death remains undisclosed.

NFL Films founder Ed Sabol passed away on Feb. 9 at the age of 98.

NFL Films founder Ed Sabol passed away on Feb. 9 at the age of 98.’s Chris Wesseling reported on Sabol’s passing. Wesseling describes Sabol as “the visionary force who revolutionized sports on camera and mythologized football at its highest level of competition.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke about Sabol’s impact on the sports film industry on Monday, per Wesseling:

“Through his determination and innovative spirit, Ed Sabol transformed how America watched football and all sports. Ed ignited the fire at NFL Films and was Keeper of the Flame with a remarkable vision and dedication to telling stories of the people who played, coached and loved the game. 

“He earned the ultimate recognition by being selected in 2011 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he will forever be remembered alongside the men he so greatly cared about. Ed’s memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of fans around the world whenever they see the work of NFL Films and of the many people he inspired.”

Sabol’s film, “Pro Football’s Longest Day,” helped convince the NFL to put up its own motion picture company to reach as many fans as possible, per Wesseling. The film depicted the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.

Back in the early 1960s, football lagged behind Major League Baseball, college football and boxing in terms of popularity. Wesseling says Sabol helped catapult pro football to the top of the television ratings and revenue at the end of the decade.

According to, NFL Film’s techniques — specifically the camera angles and inside look at players’ huddles — were what took Sabol and Co. to new heights. He said,”NFL Films was born of a desire to to be a part of the game. The techniques we used were born out of the passion for football, and the desire to bring the game to life on film.” 

The Washington Post’s Matt Schudel and Leonard Shapiro describe the intricacies which made NFL Films so popular:

“Their slow-motion style of documentary filmmaking, with a tight focus on spiraling passes in flight, close-ups of the anxiety on players’ faces and vivid footage of the hard-hitting game at ground level, captured the sweaty drama, violence — and beauty — of pro football in a fresh and provocative way. 

“Mr. Sabol deliberately modeled his football teams after Hollywood epics, with symphonic film scores, dramatic conflict and bone-crunching collisions shown in slow motion from multiple angles. Film was edited into short moments of action, intensifying the excitement in ways that previous sports highlights had never done.”

Sabol ran NFL Films together with his son, Steve, from its inception in 1962, per The Washington Post. Steve Sabol passed away in 2012.

All in all, Ed Sabol enjoyed a 32-year tenure as NFL Films president. When he retired in 1995, the company had already amassed 52 Emmy Awards. Since then, it has grown into a $10 billion entity, per Wesseling. 

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