"My father called me when I was out there and he said, 'I can tell by your grades that all you've been doing is playing football and going to the movies. That makes you uniquely qualified for this business I've started,"' Sabol said.
After graduation, Sabol went to work as a cinematographer for what by then was NFL Films. A year later, the rapidly growing company needed more space.
Even though the NFL's headquarters earlier had been moved from Philadelphia to New York, the young enterprise stayed in Philadelphia, occupying a building at 230 N. 13th Street that belonged to the Eagles' owner at the time, Jerry Wolman.
As the business grew, the Sabols assumed that Commissioner Pete Rozelle would want NFL Films, which had become a league subsidiary, to move as well.
"Rozelle said, 'No, you guys are the romanticists, the storytellers. You don't need to be in New York, where it's about contracts and lawyers and litigation. Stay where you are. Keep your distance,'" Sabol recalled.
The business remained on 13th Street until 1981 when it moved into to a new facility in Mount Laurel, its current home.
A devoted fan of Philadelphia and its sports teams, Sabol incorporated the rich baritones of such familiar local voices as Facenda and Harry Kalas in his work.
"Philadelphia was known for its passionate sports fans, and my dad and I were two," Sabol said. "There were announcers like John Facenda here. And before us there was a (sports film production) company called TelRa here. We weren't far from New York, Washington, and Pittsburgh, and we were close to the airport."
Sabol saw to it that NFL Films continued to evolve. He incorporated wireless microphones, slow-motion replays, and impossible camera angles into the films, all the while urging his camera and sound crews to take chances.
As a result, what had been football-highlight packages became productions the equal to anything Hollywood could muster.
"We were always trying something new," Sabol said. "These things are standard procedure now. But we had a hell of a time convincing people in the league when we first started using them."
Those initially reluctant owners would become some of the Sabols' biggest fans.
What they especially liked, according to Jim Murray, onetime Eagles general manager, was that the films were so good they could take the focus off a losing season.
"We had some bad teams when I was there," Murray said, "but NFL Films could take our two highlights, get John Facenda to announce them, and make us look like Super Bowl contenders."
NFL Films-produced documentaries soon followed and the company hired musical composers to create its inspirational scores. And Sabol had a talent for words as well. Several of the phrases he coined are now NFL catchphrases - "America's Team," "The Catch," "The Frozen Tundra."
"We see the game as art as much as sport," Sabol said in 2011. "That helped us nurture not only the game's traditions but to develop its mythology."
But for the gregarious Sabol the work wasn't all seriousness. He packaged pratfalls, fumbles and mistakes into the popular "NFL Bloopers" series.
Sabol assumed control of the company in the mid-1980s when his father semiretired and relocated to Arizona.
Throughout his long relationship with football, Sabol maintained his interest in painting and collages. His work has been exhibited in galleries in New York, Washington and Miami.
Sabol's last public appearance came at his father's enshrinement into the Hall of Fame in August 2011. Bald after exploratory surgery and tearful throughout the film he had created to honor his father's legacy, Sabol spent much of that weekend telling stories about his years in the sport, the characters he met, the challenges he overcame.
"Fun," Sabol once said when asked to briefly describe his career. "It's been nothing but fun."
He is survived by his wife, Penny, his son, Casey, his parents, Audrey and Ed, and his sister, Blair.
Funeral services are pending.
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