TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees principal owner and chairperson George M. Steinbrenner reflected Sunday on the passing of Lou Saban, saying that the former NFL and college football coach directly influenced his own life.

Saban's career spanned five decades and dozens of jobs, including a stint as the president of the Yankees in 1981 and 1982. He died Sunday at his home in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and was 87.

"My friendship with Lou goes back to 1948, when we were both involved in a youth track and field program in Cleveland," Steinbrenner said in a statement released by the Yankees.

"He has been my friend and mentor for over 50 years, and one of the people who helped shape my life. Lou was tough and disciplined, and he earned all the respect and recognition that came his way. He spent a lifetime leading, teaching and inspiring, and took great satisfaction in making the lives around him better."

Saban played football at Indiana University and for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL before serving as the head coach of the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos of the American Football League.

His lengthy career also included service as the head coach at numerous colleges, including Northwestern, Maryland, Miami and Army.

"This is a tremendous loss to me personally, and I extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Joyce, and the entire Saban family," Steinbrenner said.