Until 1992, I knew Steve Sabol the same way you knew him. I grew up watching his weekly NFL Films highlight shows, personality pieces and the famed NFL bloopers, which often featured his hosting, narrative and chippy sense of humor. It’s safe to say for any kid like me who grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, he had a job we’d all dreamed about.
Over the past 20 years I’ve gotten to know Steve Sabol, and even did two years’ worth of radio every Monday from his Mount Laurel, N.J. headquarters with Brian Baldinger, who literally had a key to the NFL Films building to watch film.
Like every person he ever met, affected or shared some kindness and his genuine love of football and the NFL (and everything it entailed), I’ll miss Steve Sabol greatly. He was such a super nice man and such a fun person to talk about football with whenever we crossed paths.
The first time I met Sabol was at the Metrodome for Super Bowl XXVI, when I shook his hand below the press box as a fan. Once the Ravens came into existence we crossed paths at the Super Bowl each year and often at league events. From 1999 to 2001, I saw him a little more frequently as I got to know and love Exit 4 of the New Jersey Turnpike when I was nationally syndicated on Sporting News Radio.
He was a giant, an original, an icon and a titan in the world of NFL football and how fans consumed it. Of course, that was a legacy left by his father, “Big Ed” Sabol, who was finally (and rightfully) inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. He just colorized his father’s initial vision of football as a narrative and an ever-evolving story of the NFL.
I interviewed Steve Sabol at least 25 times over the years and he was a regular guest of ours at Radio Row at most Super Bowls between 1995 and 2011.
His final visit to me is captured below from Feb. 5, 2011 and most of the conversation was about his father’s pending nomination for Canton. It was kinda neat to watch it again today because we talked so much about John Steadman as well.
Steve had a stoke four weeks later and never recovered from brain cancer.
About 20 minutes after this interview, his personal assistant approached me about becoming a regular on NFL Films “Top 10” shows and said that Steve wanted me on the shows. Since then, I’ve done a few dozen episodes. Because I’ll probably never win any sort of award in my life and because my Pop would’ve been most proud of me being on those TV shows, it’s the highest “honor” I’ve ever received in my career.
To think that I got a true “thumbs up” from Steve Sabol makes me smile.
To think that through the tragedy with his health over the past 18 months that I never saw him again and got to personally thank him makes me even sadder than the news of his death did a few hours ago.
Hopefully, this chat will make you smile and remember why we all loved Steve Sabol.