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Steve Sabol might be gone, but he most certainly isn’t forgotten. An eight-foot statue of the late NFL Films president, with a camera perched on his right shoulder, stands prominently near the visitors’ entrance of the company’s massive 200,000-square-foot headquarters in Mount Laurel.

In the lobby, behind the reception desk, there is a large picture of Sabol and his father, Ed, who founded NFL Films, accompanied by one of Sabol’s favorite sayings: “Life is great. Football is better.”

Sabol’s desk in his second-floor corner office looks pretty much the way it did nine years ago before he died at 69 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer.

The “King of Football Movies” name plate still sits prominently on his desk. So do notes with some of his other favorite sayings, including “Did you make someone laugh today?” and “A great orchestra can play on even when the conductor steps down,” which seems appropriate for a company that has done just that, shouldering on without its leader the last nine years.

A Colorado College baseball cap — that’s where Steve went to school and was a star fullback on the football team — hangs on the corner of the message board on the wall next to his desk.

His widow, Penny Ashman, who was the art director at NFL Films for many years, decorated an alcove in her late husband’s office with pictures of Sabol and his father, along with other mementos from his extraordinary career.

While they use the conference table in Sabol’s office for meetings, there is no full-time occupant. There never will be. It always will be Sabol’s office no matter how much time passes.

» READ MORE: From the Inquirer archives, columnist Bill Lyon remembers Steve Sabol

Ross Ketover, who succeeded Sabol as NFL Films president, has an office around the corner.

“We always want him in our thoughts,” Ketover said.

In typical Sabol style, his only request before he died with respect to preserving his legacy was that they keep his parking space.

“He said, ‘In 20 years I want the new [production assistants] coming out of college, I want them to go, ‘Who is this guy, Steve, that has his own parking place?’ ” Ketover said with a smile.

No one inside or outside NFL Films is likely to forget who Steve Sabol was. He and his father built the greatest sports filmmaking operation in history and have helped make the NFL the money-making behemoth it is today.

They are one of just three father-son duos in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with Art and Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tim and Wellington Mara of the New York Giants.

Ed Sabol was inducted in 2011. Steve Sabol was voted in as a member of the Hall’s 2020 class, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed last year’s ceremony.

Steve Sabol was enshrined in a late-April ceremony along with eight other posthumous members of the 2020 and 2021 classes and will be honored again at the Aug. 6 enshrinement ceremony in Canton for the 2020 class.

“Steve took us inside the facemasks and into the souls of the people playing the game,” Hollywood filmmaker Peter Berg said. “He just really understood filmmaking, and so he was able to take this incredibly dramatic subject and blend it with Hollywood filmmaking. Nobody ever had put the two together. But Steve did.”

From whales to football

Given the way everything turned out, Blair Sabol would love to tell you she always knew her father Ed’s mid-life decision to become a filmmaker was an absolutely brilliant idea.

The truth is, she thought the man had lost his mind when he informed his family of his new career plans in 1961.

“I never thought it would work,” Blair Sabol said. “My father was in his 40s at the time. He was lost. I was very aware of that. He was not connecting. He retired early.”

Ed Sabol had been an overcoat salesman for his father-in-law’s clothing company.

“Who the hell retired early back then?” Blair Sabol said. “He would take me to Welsh Valley School [in Narberth] every day, and I kind of felt sorry for him. I was wondering what was going to happen to him. When he told us he was going into the motion-picture business, I sort of laughed. I was thinking, ‘Yeah, right. You’re going to wind up doing promotional films for Shore resorts.’”

Despite Blair’s skepticism, Ed Sabol named his fledgling company after her, Blair Motion Pictures. That didn’t make his daughter any more confident it was going to be a success. His first project was a film called To Catch A Whale. He rented a boat, took it out in the Rhode Island Sound, and got seasick before ever spotting a whale. So much for To Catch A Whale.

That’s when Steve Sabol, then a 19-year-old football-playing freshman and an art history major at Colorado College, intervened and made a suggestion that would forever change both of their lives.

“Hey, Dad,” he said. “Why don’t you shoot football?”

As suggestions go, that one ended up ranking up there with whoever told Meryl Streep she might want to give this acting thing a try.

Talented people need somebody to give them the opportunity to display their greatness. For the Sabols, that was Pete Rozelle.

It was Rozelle, a former public relations man who served as the NFL’s commissioner for nearly three decades, from 1960 to 1989, who took a chance on Ed Sabol in 1962. Ed Sabol bid $3,000 for the rights to the ’62 NFL championship game even though the only football he ever had filmed was Steve’s midget and high school games at the Haverford School.

It was Rozelle who persuaded the NFL’s owners to invest $100 million in Ed Sabol’s company in 1965 and bring it in-house.

And it was Rozelle who realized the power the Sabols’ unique approach to filmmaking could have on the league’s popularity after watching the premier of their first full-length film in 1967.

It was titled They Call It Pro Football, and the film encompassed everything for which the Sabols and NFL Films would become famous over the next four decades. The music. The drama. The slow-motion shots. The steam coming out of helmets. The bloody hands.

John Facenda, a former WCAU-TV broadcaster whom Ed Sabol hired after hearing him talk in a Philadelphia bar, narrated the film, opening with the memorable line, “It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun.”

Fittingly, Facenda, the larger-than-life voice of NFL Films for nearly 20 years until his death in 1984, will also be honored in Canton next weekend, as the recipient of the 2021 Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

Creating a mystique

They Call It Pro Football got rave reviews. Steve Sabol would later call it the Citizen Kane of football movies. The day after the premier, Rozelle summoned Ed and Steve to his Manhattan office.

When they got there, he pulled a piece of paper from his desk and showed it to them. It was the Nielsen TV ratings.

“He said, ‘See this? Baseball is No. 1. College football is No. 2. And here we are, at No. 3,’” Steve Sabol said years ago. “He said, ‘In order for the NFL to flourish, we’ve got to succeed on television. That’s where the future of this league is.’

“He said, ‘The game has to have a mystique. It has to have an image. It has to have a sense of magic. What I saw in your film captured that magic and that mystique. It’s important that you continue to make our films in this style.’

» READ MORE: Steve Sabol of groundbreaking NFL Films dies at 69

“Here’s me, 25 years old, sitting there and listening. After it was over, I asked my dad what did all that mean. He looked at me and said, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’”

Steve Sabol did. His father wanted to portray football the way Hollywood portrayed fiction. Sabol wanted to portray it the way he experienced it as a player. With, as he once put it, “the passion and the sounds, and the snot flying, and the sweat spraying.” He managed to blend those two styles into something people had never experienced.

“It was like an artist being given a canvas,” Sabol said. “I was lucky that my vision of the game coincided with what the commissioner wanted. It was like being Michelangelo, and the Pope says, ‘I want something on the ceiling that portrays the seven days of creation, and you can do what you want.’ ”

“It was Ed’s vision and Ed’s salesmanship that got NFL Films started,” said Ray Didinger, a former Daily News columnist and pro football writer who spent nine years as an Emmy-winning senior writer and producer at NFL Films. “But it was Steve and his love for the game of football, and just his tremendous creative imagination [that allowed it to flourish]. It was like he was back at Colorado College. He just took the ball and ran with it.”

“I guess you could say that for a guy who became a career mythmaker, the first myth he made was his own.”

Sportswriter Ray Didinger on the late Steve Sabol

Phil Tuckett, a former NFL wide receiver hired by the Sabols in 1970 after getting cut by the San Diego Chargers, spent 38 years at NFL Films, winning 30 Emmys. He once described Ed and Steve Sabol as two pieces of a puzzle that had only two pieces.

“If Steve hadn’t been with Big Ed, none of the production advances would have happened,” Tuckett said. “Big Ed had the vision of what the company could be and how it could raise the level of the league. Steve had the vision of how you make movies to do that.

“He was a big fan of the cinema. Especially big, swashbuckling, over-the-top types of movies with music and drama and action. And he brought that to sports documentaries, which had never been done before.

“Nobody had ever looked at sports as cinematic art until Steve decided that’s what he was going to do. And then he surrounded himself with people who could help him do it. Even though I was the only one who ever worked at Films who had spent time on an active NFL roster, I was always bored by the X’s and O’s and everyday minutiae that went into playing the game. But I loved the romance and adventure.

“It was like being on a pirate ship, and you were fighting off a foe and soaring through the air and swinging from the mainsails. Steve and I shared that. That’s what we both loved about football. The romance and adventure and drama more than the X’s and O’s.”

The Sabols and NFL Films created a larger-than-life mystique for the league with their filmmaking, and that mystique helped make it more popular – and much, much richer – than Rozelle and the owners ever imagined.

In 1964, Jerry Wolman bought the Eagles for $5 million. Today, they’re worth $3.4 billion. The Dallas Cowboys, an expansion franchise that Texas oilman Clint Murchison bought for $600,000 in 1960, are valued at a league-high $5.7 billion.

The little tot from Possum Trot

Even before he teamed up with his father at NFL Films, Sabol already had developed a knack for image enhancement and myth-making.

As an All-Rocky Mountain Conference fullback and punter at Colorado College, he used his own money to pay for newspaper advertising, brochures, and even T-shirts to promote himself. He sent out news releases of his accomplishments to papers across the country, including sidebars on his colorful campus life.

“I guess you could say that for a guy who became a career mythmaker, the first myth he made was his own,” Didinger said.

When he got to school, Sabol hadn’t yet discovered the wonders of strength training that would later help him win the “Mr. Philadelphia” bodybuilding title and become a stud fullback. He weighed just 170 pounds and felt he needed to do something to get the coaches to notice him.

So he changed his hometown from big-house, Main Line Villanova to blue-collar Coaltown Township, Pa. He felt it had a more authentic football ring to it. Later in his career, he relocated again, this time to, of all places, Possum Trot, Miss. And, no, there isn’t really a town named Possum Trot.

Sabol also gave himself nicknames, including Sudden Death Sabol, Super Sabol, and the Little Tot from Possum Trot. He wrote a column for the school paper called, “Here’s a Lot From Possum Trot.”

“We never called him Steve,” said Steve Ehrhart, a Memphis lawyer, the longtime executive director of the Liberty Bowl, and one of Sabol’s friends and college teammates. “We called himSuper’ orSupe’ or ‘Sudden Death.’ He was one of the most creative guys I’ve ever met. And I’m not just talking about football.

“We would sit around the fraternity house, and Steve already was talking about putting music to plays and tight shots of players’ faces, and needing to have a cameraman on the sideline getting shots of the players’ hands and knuckles.”

In addition to playing, Steve also moonlighted as the editor of the game program, which is how he managed to keep changing the name of his hometown. He once ran a picture of himself in the program in his midget football uniform with the message: “The Possum Trot Chamber of Commerce wishes ‘Sudden Death’ Sabol a successful football season.”

Sports Illustrated, which was moved to do a four-page spread on Sabol late in his college career, called him “college football’s greatest living advertisement for himself.”

“They talk today about name, image, and likeness,” Ehrhart said with a smile. “Steve was light years ahead of everybody with regard to name, image, and likeness. He was the master of NIL.

“As the editor of the game program, he would do the artwork as well as write the captions for the players. I remember we had a defensive lineman who was a buddy of Steve’s. The caption Steve wrote for him once was ‘tears the wings off of piper cubs in his spare time.’ He also would occasionally insert a gorilla into our team picture.”

Colorado College is in Colorado Springs, near the base of Pike’s Peak. It’s more than 6,000 feet above sea level. Ehrhart said that, before their home games, Steve would put a big sign near the entrance to Washburn Field, where the football team played.

“He made up a fictitious name of a player. I don’t remember what it was,” he said. “But the sign said, ‘This is the final resting place of so and so, who expired because of a lack of oxygen in a game in 1928.’

“The visiting team would have to walk by the sign when they came out of their locker room. The teams that would play us would be all scared of not being able to breathe. They’d be coming off the field every couple of plays to suck some oxygen.”

In 1965, Sabol, art history degree in hand, finally bade farewell to Colorado College and joined his father at NFL Films.

“Steve said, ‘I know what I’m going to do with my life,’” Ehrhart said. “He had the vision and the inspiration. Every day, there was something new and creative about him.

“The thing about Steve was he also was so kind and thoughtful. He loved our coaches, Jerry Carle and Frank Flood. Carle was our head coach, and Frank was our line coach. Frank had been a heavyweight boxer. For years after he left, Steve would bring those guys to Super Bowls. He’d pay for their expenses and tickets.

“He even hired some of his former college teammates at Films. They were some of the first cameramen that they had there. He was a loyal guy.”

Friends for life

Carl Peterson will never forget the time he met Steve Sabol.

It was the summer of 1976. The Eagles were getting ready to play their first preseason game under Dick Vermeil. Peterson, who would later become the Eagles’ player personnel director, was a 33-year-old assistant on Vermeil’s staff.

“I remember walking out of the locker room pregame feeling pretty good about myself in my kelly-green pants with the white belt and the white shoes and my white-and-green Eagles shirt,” Peterson said. “I had come to Philadelphia with Dick from UCLA, and I’m thinking here I am in the big-time.

“Just about the time I was thinking that, this guy hits me from behind and knocks me ass over tea kettle. He went down also. I jump up, and he jumps up, and he’s got a camera on his shoulder. I said, ‘Jesus, who in the hell are you and what are you doing?’

“He asked me the same thing. I told him I was one of Dick’s assistant coaches. He said he worked with his father at NFL Films. And he said, ‘As you can see, I’m a cameraman today.’ That’s how our relationship began.”

The two ended up becoming close friends.

‘The longer we got to know each other, the better and closer we became,” said Peterson, who later became the president and general manager of the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars and spent nearly two decades as the Kansas City Chiefs’ president and general manager.

They dined together regularly at Bookbinder’s. They golfed together at Squires Country Club in Amherst. Mass. They went on golf vacations together.

“We’d go to a couple of players’ tournaments every summer,” Peterson said. “Jan Stenerud used to have a great tournament up in Bozeman, Mont., that we’d go to. We’d have a great time and then drive back to Philly or drive to the West Coast through Yellowstone Park or whatever.

“Steve, of course, he’d want to stop every 100 yards to take a picture. He had pictures of me right in front of Old Faithful, swinging a club just as it was going off. We had so much damn fun together.”

One summer, they chartered a yacht and spent six weeks cruising around the Mediterranean.

Unknown to the NFL, Sabol put together a recruiting film for Peterson in 1982 after he left the Eagles and joined the Stars, who later were part of an antitrust suit against the NFL.

“I used it quite a bit to recruit players, coaches, fans, everybody else,” Peterson said. “Steve swore me to secrecy. He said, ‘Don’t tell anybody who made it.’ I said, ‘I won’t. But the minute they see it, they’re going to recognize the quality.’”

Sabol was a groomsman in Peterson’s wedding to his second wife, Laurie. And when Steve and Penny decided to get married after Sabol’s brain cancer diagnosis in 2011, Peterson was his best man.

Judge Seamus McCaffery, who presided over Eagles Court in the basement of Veterans Stadium on game days to deal with unruly fans and was a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice at the time, officiated at the ceremony.

In late April, when Sabol was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Peterson was on the stage in Canton with Penny to unveil his bronze bust.

“I would challenge anyone to name me someone else who did more to make this game of ours so popular,” Peterson said. “Steve was the Steven Spielberg of the game of football. He loved the game and loved being able to make movies about it.”

Forever a weasel

The statue of Sabol with the camera on his shoulder outside NFL Films perfectly embodies who he was.

“I think that’s how Steve kind of liked to remember himself,” Didinger said. “He never stopped being a cameraman. Even when he didn’t have the camera on his shoulder, in his mind, he was still that guy.

“He was still the guy they call the weasel. The guy who’s on the sideline, around the benches, getting the shots of the bloody hands and the feet in the mud and that stuff. They call those the weasel shots.

“Steve, in his mind, was never the president [of NFL Films]. He always was the weasel. Right to the end, in his mind, that camera was always on his shoulder.”

“I’ve never seen a guy who was more in love with his life and his work than Steve was.”

Ray Didinger on the late Steve Sabol

“Steve was involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process in his career,” Ketover said. “Obviously, I know him best sitting and editing. But him being in and around the game with the players and coaches he admired so much, I think that’s why being on the field shooting those weasel shots was more important than anything to him. That’s why that image of him is so great.”

Didinger remembers when Sabol offered him a job at NFL Films in 1998. He had worked for newspapers his entire professional career, and he had his doubts about whether he was qualified to work at NFL Films.

“I said to Steve, ‘I’m 50 years old. I’ve never cut a film. I don’t know how to do that kind of stuff,’ ” Didinger said.

“Steve said, ‘Listen, you know football, and you can tell a story.’ He said, ‘That’s really what we are here. We’re storytellers.’ That’s what he believed. One of his favorite sayings was, ‘Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.’

“If there ever was a motto of NFL Films, that was it. Tell the kind of stories that will live in people’s hearts forever. That was what his mission was.”

Sabol loved football in a profound way. He never got jaded. Didinger remembers a trip he made to Baltimore with Sabol one time to do a story on the Colts’ former home, Memorial Stadium, which was being torn down.

“We were heading down there in the NFL Films van, and Steve is talking nonstop about his memories of Memorial Stadium,” Didinger said. “Ghost to the post. Orrville. Unitas’ drive against the Lions. The comeback against the 49ers.

“He’s recounting all of this history right off the top of his head. Right in the middle of it, he stops and looks at me and he says, ‘You know something? I really feel I was born to do this job’ I’ve never seen a guy who was more in love with his life and his work than Steve was.”

Man of many talents

Sabol was a creative genius behind the camera. But he also became a star in front of it. He hosted many of NFL Films’ award-winning shows over the years. He developed into a top-notch interviewer, establishing an excellent rapport with coaches and players. He made Tom Brady cry. Tough interview subjects such as Bill Belichick opened up to him.

“When Steve started doing all of that stuff in front of the camera, we were shocked,” Blair Sabol said. “Because that was never my brother. He was quiet. Put him in a film room with the moviola. That’s where he was the most comfortable.

“From the moment he went to work for his dad, Steve was determined to be the best filmmaker in the building. And he was.”

Phil Tuckett on the late NFL Films legend Steve Sabol

“But suddenly, he had a little personality. I’ve been looking back at some of those interviews he did. He was absolutely terrific. Because the players and coaches loved him. He got interesting stuff.”

Didinger called Sabol “the best interviewer I ever saw.”

“He was so prepared. He researched everything,” he said. “He was a football savant. He knew everybody’s life story. He could have just walked into that room and sat down and did the interview. But he would spend days preparing for the interview, reading over everything, looking for maybe just one little fact or one little anecdote or something that he hadn’t heard before that he wanted to bring up to the guy that he was interviewing. He was so detailed that way.

“His ability to open up tough subjects and get people to talk about them was really remarkable. He just had that easy, relaxing manner about him that drew people out. Even people who historically might have been real tough interviews. Steve would get guys like Jim Brown and Bill Belichick to open up to him. He took those guys places that they would never have gone with another interviewer.

“Part of that was because of who he was. He commanded that kind of respect from football people who knew that his love of the game and his knowledge of the game were off the charts. So, when he sat down, people respected him and wanted to have that conversation.”

Nepotism at its best

Steve had little interest in the business side of NFL Films. He left that to his dad and others. Barry Wolper, who was NFL Films’ chief financial officer, referred to Steve as the company’s “artist-in-residence.”

For the longest time, NFL Films didn’t really have a budget. While they were technically owned by the NFL, the league left them alone. If they had an idea that was worth doing, they did it. It always was money well spent. Phil Tuckett called the NFL Films of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s “the ultimate creative hothouse.”

“I wanted to do a story on Christian Okoye one time,” Tuckett said. “We decided on that as Steve and I passed each other in the hallway. It took about 30 seconds. Steve asked me what we needed to do to get it done. I said we needed to go to Nigeria. He said, ‘Go.’ And it ended up winning a bunch of Emmys.”

Tuckett called the professional relationship between Steve and his father “nepotism at its finest.”

“Because of who he was, Steve didn’t have to do anything,” Tuckett said. “He would have been the vice president of the company and be the kid that everybody had to deal with while they tried to do their work. But from the moment he went to work for his dad, Steve was determined to be the best filmmaker in the building. And he was.

“He never was satisfied being Big Ed’s son. That’s what I respected about him, and that’s what everybody else respected about him. There never was a single moment when anybody wondered how he got the job.”

In 1985, Ed Sabol relinquished the day-to-day operations of Films to Steve. The company never missed a beat when Steve took over.

“Some people wondered whether Steve could run the company after my dad retired,” Blair Sabol said. “Often, when fathers and sons go into business together, the son wrecks it. I was just amazed how Steve was able to take it and run with it and take it even further in his own way.”

Ed Sabol never discouraged his son from exploring the limits of his filmmaking creativity.

“Steve and Dad were creatively close,” said Blair Sabol, a writer herself. She has written for the Village Voice, Vogue, and Vanity Fair, among other publications. “Dad was the engine, and Steve was the artist, and they fed off each other. Dad left Steve alone. He would say, ‘Half the time I don’t know what he’s doing, but I let him do it.’

“They trusted each other. It would be, ‘Well, Dad, you go to New York, and you sell this [to the league], while I do this.’ Steve never wanted to get into the area that Dad was so brilliant at, and Dad let Steve go and work his magic.”

A bittersweet moment

In a perfect world, Ed and Steve Sabol would have entered the Hall of Fame together. “They were a team,” Peterson said. “It would have been so appropriate for them to have gone in together.”

But when Ed Sabol got in in 2011, there wasn’t even a separate “contributors” category. The Hall of Fame didn’t create one until 2015. The year Ed Sabol got in, he was in the same pool with modern-era players. But the Hall’s 48 selectors understood what the Sabols and NFL Films meant to the success of the NFL.

The other finalists Ed Sabol beat out that year for one of the six Hall of Fame spots were Cris Carter, Jerome Bettis, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf, Cortez Kennedy, Dermontti Dawson, Andre Reed, and Charles Haley. All of them eventually got in, but not before Big Ed.

Three months before he was inducted, Ed Sabol got pneumonia. He already was frustrated with the limitations of old age. He spent most of his time in a wheelchair and had lost his will to live. Steve Sabol flew out to his father’s home in Phoenix to tell him he had a chance to make the Hall of Fame.

“Steve said to Dad, ‘Dad, you can’t go [die]. You’re going to get into the Hall of Fame,’ ” Blair Sabol recalled. “Steve came out in the hall with me after talking to Dad and started to cry. He said, ‘Jesus Christ. Dad is going to die.’

“It reminded me of that scene in Moonstruck where Cher slaps Nicolas Cage across the face and says, ‘Grow up, Jesus Christ.’ ”

Steve Sabol never asked, “Why not me?” When his father got in, he considered it a team win for both of them as well as for all of the talented people who had worked at NFL Films over the years .

“I remember telling him, ‘Steve, you’re going to [eventually] get in,’” Blair Sabol said. “And he said, ‘I don’t give a ... I just wanted Dad to get in.’ He was adamant about it.”

A month after his father made the Hall of Fame, Sabol collapsed at an awards ceremony in Kansas City. Tests revealed he had a malignant brain tumor.

After Sabol’s diagnosis, his only focus was staying alive long enough to present his father for enshrinement. He never asked the doctor how long he had. He asked him only if he could make it to the ceremony that August.

As the enshrinement got closer, the cancer began to impact Sabol’s ability to speak. He developed aphasia, which made it difficult for him to finish his thoughts. He wore a note pad around his neck to help him communicate.

Weak from the chemotherapy and having lost all his hair, Sabol still managed to wheel his 94-year-old father onto the stage at the enshrinement ceremony in August 2011 and unveil his bust with him.

“It was bittersweet for Dad at the enshrinement,” Blair Sabol said. “It was the shining moment of his professional life. But he could see what the cancer was doing to Steve. He felt terrible for him.”

Steve Sabol ended up living another 14 months. The day he died, Blair Sabol futilely tried to hide the news from her father and mother.

“It was on the scroll at the bottom of the screen on every channel,” she said. “I didn’t want my dad to see it. But he did. Steve received so much adulation after the news came out, though, that it helped my parents deal with his death.”

Saying good-bye

Cancer is a mean disease. It kills you slowly and is an awful way to die. The one solace is that at least you and the people around you have a rough idea of when the end is going to come and can prepare accordingly. It gives you an opportunity to say your goodbyes and reserve your parking spot.

Phil Tuckett, Carl Peterson, and Ray Didinger all had a chance to say good-bye to Sabol before he died. Tuckett, who left NFL Films in 2008 and is a professor of film at Dixie State (Utah) University, saw Sabol for the final time on a visit to New Jersey a few months before his passing.

Didinger’s goodbye came in the parking lot at NFL Films. Peterson’s came in the hospital as his friend was near death.

Tuckett: “I knew about his [speech] issue. But we knew each other so well that he would start to say something, and I would finish it. It didn’t frustrate him. He was delighted by it. He never once had to reach for his notepad.

“We spoke that way for 45 minutes and had a wonderful goodbye. Because it wasn’t long after that that he passed.”

Didinger: “I was in the parking lot outside NFL Films. I was coming back to do an interview for one of those top-10 list shows. Steve used to describe it as a North Korean interrogation. They put you in a chair, and you’re there for four hours. So they had asked me to come in and do one of those.

“The last time I saw him in the hospital, he didn’t have much time left. He could hardly speak at all. I remember saying to him, ‘Hey, I don’t know when or how, but we’ll meet again.’ ”

Carl Peterson on the last words he said to the late Steve Sabol

“I was on my way out, and Steve was on his way in. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and he had really changed. It was obvious that he was a lot sicker than the last time I had seen him. It was a struggle for him to walk.

“We stopped, and we talked. I remember when we parted, I went to shake hands with him. Instead of shaking hands, he hugged me. For a really long time. I said, ‘Well, I’ll see you.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, goodbye.’

“I walked to my car and sat in my car and said to myself, ‘You know what, I think that was goodbye.’ He knew that probably was going to be the last time we were going to see each other.”

Peterson: “The last time I saw him in the hospital, he didn’t have much time left. He could hardly speak at all. I remember saying to him, ‘Hey, I don’t know when or how, but we’ll meet again.’”

At the memorial service for Sabol at NFL Films a few months after his death, it began to rain.

“Then the sun came out, and this beautiful dove was flying above us,” Peterson said. “I remember Blair saying something like, ‘That Steve, always trying to one-up everybody.’”