Steve Sabol never played a single down in the NFL. He wasn't a part of any of the NFL's 32 teams. And, most casual NFL fans probably couldn't pick him out of a lineup. But, Sabol—who died earlier today at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer—was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of the league.
After starting off his career as a cameraman, Sabol and his father Ed founded NFL Films in 1962, a company that pioneered the way that professional football was covered. Throughout the years, Sabol oversaw the company, and he did things like wire players and coaches for sound and add music to old highlights in order to tell the stories behind some of the best games in NFL history. He also assumed an on-air role during NFL Films productions and served as the "voice of the NFL" for many years. As a result, he won more than 30 Emmy awards himself and helped NFL Films earn more than 100 Emmy awards. His tireless work is one of the many reasons that football is as popular as it is today.
"Big Ed had the idea [to create NFL Films] and he sold the owners on it," NFL Films head of cinematography Hank McElwee said earlier this year, "but when it came to the actual vision of this company, without a doubt it was Steve. Steve saw things in a unique way that every network is copying right now."
Salute to an NFL legend.