Ed Mahan has been a team photographer for the Eagles since 1971. In addition to his work with the Eagles, Mahan has been the photographer for the Flyers, Phillies, Sixers and University of Penn athletics. He is also the Director of Photography for the Penn Relays and the Big 5. This is the first-person perspective of how Mahan captured one of the most iconic photos in NFL history.
We had lost the game. The game was over. All the Giants had to do was run out the clock. From what I’ve been told, the credits to close out the TV production were actually rolling on the TV screen when the play happened.
I was positioned in the end zone. At this point, I figured I could at least get some isolation shots of Reggie Wilkes, our rookie linebacker. I had a lens that I borrowed from Joe O’Connell, a classmate of mine at Villanova. He had one of these relatively new zoom lenses. Back in those days, zoom lenses were not optimal because the technology for sharpness was not there. They were starting to improve, but in the old, old days German scientists designed the lenses by hand. Later, computers started to design lenses and they had become sharper.
As I’m keying in on Wilkes, somehow I saw the ball bouncing across my lens. I had said, “Oh, the ball’s loose.” Herm Edwards came in from the left out of nowhere, scooped it up and ran directly toward me. I had the zoom lens and a motor drive so I automatically stayed on him as he ran forward. I had the whole sequence, but there’s one shot that really showed it. You could see Larry Czonka looking down at Joe Pisarcik like, “What did we just do?”
Our players already had their arms up in the air. He ran right toward me and I took those shots then I followed him in the end zone to photograph the celebration.
The reason why it was important was because I was the only one there. The photographers left to get to the parking lot or to get back to their photo room at the stadium. There was an NFL Films videographer shooting it, which is wonderful that they have it on film. One of the other photographers from the Associated Press was on the sideline and got Herm Edwards scooping up the ball, but that was all he photographed. I was able to document the whole play.
The nice thing for me was getting a picture of Jimmy Murray, the general manager at the time, who was instrumental in getting me a job with the Eagles. After I had served in Vietnam, I was working as a painter in his home. He saw talent in me and asked if I would shoot the Eagles games. The first game I ever photographed was the last game at Franklin Field in 1970 when we beat the Steelers.
As I reflect on that photograph, that moment changed football history. The victory formation never existed until the Miracle of the Meadowlands.