Statue in Mount Laurel honors an NFL legend

Sculptor Chad Fisher, a Moorestown native, works on a clay model of the sculpture of late president Steve Sabol. The full-size bronze statue was unveiled last week outside the company's Mount Laurel headquarters. NFL Films
Sculptor Chad Fisher, a Moorestown native, works on a clay model of the sculpture of late president Steve Sabol. The full-size bronze statue was unveiled last week outside the company's Mount Laurel headquarters. NFL Films (NFL Films)
Posted: August 19, 2014

The pose is typical - the way many people remember him on the football field, always ready to capture the action.

His eyes scan the ground as though waiting for the next play, the next classic shot. And his video camera, like an extension of his body, is perched on his right shoulder, prepared to record impossible catches and colliding giants.

A bronze figure of Steve Sabol, the late president and co-founder of NFL Films, was unveiled last week during a private ceremony outside the company's Mount Laurel headquarters.

Sabol died in 2012 at 69 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. An NFL legend, he won 35 Emmy awards covering every category - in cinematography, editing, writing, directing, and producing.

"The Steve Sabol statue was officially unveiled as a permanent fixture at the entrance to NFL Films," the company said on its Facebook page. "Over a year in the making, the statue was created from photos of Steve when he was younger.

"And, like Steve, the statue is larger than life. The sculptor's young daughters nicknamed it appropriately: 'Big Steve.' "

NFL Films declined to comment further. But Sabol's widow, Penny Ashman, in her speech during the unveiling, described the project and her collaboration with sculptor Chad Fisher, 31, a Moorestown native.

"Gradually, we began to form an idea of what a monument to Steve Sabol might look like," she said. "The challenge was choosing an era and a pose that personifies Steve and also represents the spirit that NFL Films is built on.

"It helped that when Steve was young, he was built like a superhero and wore clothing very tight. Making the leap from human to bronze was not all that difficult to imagine."

She and Fisher spent hours studying dozens of photos and videos before a pose was chosen and the work got underway.

"I had to get an idea of how he held himself," said Fisher, who has a studio and foundry in Dillsburg, Pa., outside Harrisburg. "From there, I asked for detailed shots of him in NFL camera gear.

"In the early fall, he wore an NFL polo shirt and jeans," he said. "I picked how he would be dressed, including the field pass on his belt and other details."

Sabol brought football to the fans in a way they had never seen it, showing the dramatic action in small, slow-motion moments. He followed players onto the field and into the tunnels, and created an unforgetable narrative of the sport that elevated it to an almost mythical status.

His statue, with its black patina, stands about 8 feet tall and weighs 1,300 pounds.

It depicts Sabol as a man in his 30s during the 1970s, when he was just beginning to show what he could do with film. Behind him is a camera case with an NFL sticker affixed to it.

The figure is heroic, Fisher said. "He's looking out toward the future with his head tilted up slightly.

"It's a pose of strength and confidence," he said. Steve Sabol "was a determined, driven man."

The sculptor said the great cinematographer was on the job at 6 a.m. and the last to leave at night.

"He had a goal in mind and would not be denied," said Fisher. "The camera weighed 25 pounds, and he never put it on the ground.

"What he did required an enormous amount of strength," he said. "He had to be strong mentally and physically."

In her speech at the Aug. 11 unveiling, Ashman said: "I hope that when you look at this statue today and in the days to come, you will remember Steve's passion for his work and his commitment to NFL Films . . ..

"I hope that you will remember his love of the game of football and his love of life. Most of all, I hope you will remember his indomitable spirit and carry that with you as you do your work and live your life."


ecolimore@phillynews.com

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