NFL Films visited with Steve Stout on Tuesday to film a segment for an upcoming feature.
Stout, the sports editor of the Urbana Daily Citizen and an avid sports historian and collector, shared anecdotes and memorabilia on camera for several hours.
What he had available in his private collection, Stout made accessible under the bright light of the crew’s spotlights. It took about an hour for the four-man crew to set up the camera, microphones and lights at just the proper distance and relation to the chair that Stout would occupy, then another couple of hours for producer Paul Camarata to “interrogate” his subject.
The crew paused only twice during filming … just brief respites to change lenses on the camera and get a new angle.
Stout talked with Camarata at length about the life and career of Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach Weeb Ewbank, sharing pieces from his extensive collection for added perspective. The two spoke about Ewbank’s ties to Miami University in Oxford and his relationship with Paul Brown. Stout enthralled Camarata with tales of Ewbank’s innovative mind, offering up original game plans, personal notes and even the guide that Ewbank used to teach Johnny Unitas how to play quarterback.
Ewbank was an integral part of Miami’s football, basketball and baseball teams while in school. He coached and taught at McGuffey High School in Oxford in the 1930s for a while and served in the military before joining Brown as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns in 1949.
Ewbank took over the fledgling Baltimore Colts in 1954. By 1958, he led the team to its first championship and had turned Unitas into a star. The Colts repeated as champions the following season, but two titles weren’t enough to keep Ewbank from getting fired in 1963.
He took his expertise to New York, where he led a struggling Jets team to a win in Super Bowl III behind the arm of Joe Namath.
Ewbank was a master of the profession, one far ahead of his time, according to Stout. Ewbank used film extensively, worked out quarterback mechanics down to the footsteps, revolutionized pass protection and was a proponent of using “bulletin board material” for motivation.
Stout has worked extensively to piece together the remnants of Ewbank’s personal football collection, depositing a great deal of it in the care of Miami and its Cradle of Coaches Archive, which he founded in 2000 along with his late father, Gerald Stout, and Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio.
Selvaggio was interviewed at the Cradle of Coaches Archive on Wednesday.
The NFL Films crew soaked up the information, with Camarata nodding furiously and taking notes. They repeated this process perhaps a dozen times for each piece – interviewing, filming and taking notes – then they will cobble together the footage into a coherent story for their audience.
To save time, the crew often has a subject with multiple interests (Camarata uses Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula as an example) comment on multiple topics during their stay so that they can use the footage in several films. All told, each film will require hundreds of miles of travel, dozens of dedicated staff members and untold man hours to complete.
“I don’t even know how to put a number on that,” Camarata said with a smile. “It’s a lot.”
The episode of “NFL Films Presents” featuring Stout and Selvaggio will air on the NFL Network in the fall.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller