Early on Thursday, September 6, 2012, iconic NFL owner Art Modell passed away at the age of 87. A foundation block of the league, Modell will always be known as one of the most influential owners in the history of the NFL.
Many will remember him for the tainted and ill-fated decision to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, but no-one can take away his genius.
Brothers David and John Modell were at the side of their father upon his death on Thursday. David told the press that Art Modell “died peacefully of natural causes.”
“‘Poppy’ was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren,” David Modell said. “Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore.”
Modell never did make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it is believed that the moving of the team to Baltimore is the reason why. Still, he had 43 years as an NFL owner and no-one can say that he didn’t know how to successfully run a team.
“I believe Art belongs in the Hall of Fame,” the late Wellington Mara, former New York Giants owner, said in 2002. “I don’t think I know a person who has done more for the league than Modell, especially through television.”
The world of the NFL is a complicated one that sees so many people chewed up and spit back out without ever being successful. Modell was certainly not one of them. Whether it was running the Browns and Ravens, combining the NFL and television, or dealing with league politics, the late icon had his hand in virtually everything.
“He had a heart of gold and he’ll be sorely missed,” said Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Detroit Lions. “He was a giant in the NFL where we are with our TV contracts and revenue sharing, and the competitiveness of our league is directly responsible to some of the pioneering work that he did.”
The city of Cleveland knows that a legend was lost on Thursday with Modell’s passing, but they did not have a soft spot in their hearts for him. After moving the team to Baltimore in 1996, many wondered if Cleveland would ever have professional football again.
In 1999, the city was granted an expansion franchise and Cleveland had the Browns back at home. The old team was now the Ravens, and they ended up winning a championship in 2000.
One of those that spoke about their memories and love was probably the man that was closest to Modell who was not actually family. That man is Ray Lewis, long-time linebacker for the Ravens.
“The things that I shared with him in his ear I will always keep that between me and him, because it’s like a son talking to a father,” Lewis said. “Everything I said in his ear, he knew came from my heart, and I loved the man dearly.
“He grabbed me as a son from Day 1, and he never let me go. He would always tell me how much he loved me. For him to embrace me the way he did, only God creates moments like that.”
Lewis is another that believes Modell belongs in the Hall of Fame due to the impact and influence he had on the NFL. One day, there is the chance that Art Modell may end up having his face and legacy enshrined in the halls.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.