Art Modell, whose 43-year NFL career made him a regular finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died early Thursday morning of natural causes at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 87.
“Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at four this morning," said David Modell, former Ravens president. "My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October.
“’Poppy’ was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren. Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore. He made an important and indelible contribution to the lives of his children, grandchildren and his entire community. We will miss him.”
As owner of both the Cleveland Browns (1961-95) and the Baltimore Ravens (1996-2003), Modell directed teams that produced 28 winning seasons, 28 playoff games, two NFL championships (1964 and 2000), three other appearances in NFL title contests (1965, ’68 and ’69), and four visits (1986, ’87, ’89 and 2000) to AFC championship games.
A key figure in launching "Monday Night Football," Modell chaired the NFL’s Television Committee for 31 years, setting the standard for rights’ fees for professional sports and TV networks. He worked closely with Pete Rozelle to establish NFL Films and became first Chairman of Films. He was the only elected NFL president (1967-69) and he was Chairman of the Owners’ Labor Committee, which negotiated the NFL’s first Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players in 1968. He also served on the NFL-AFL Merger Committee, breaking the impasse for realignment of the two leagues by moving the Browns to the American Football Conference.
“Art Modell’s leadership was an important part of the NFL’s success during the league’s explosive growth during the 1960s and beyond," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "As the longtime chairman of the league’s Broadcast Committee, Art was a visionary who understood the critical role that mass viewing of NFL games on broadcast television could play in growing the league. Art played important roles in many other league matters as a key advisor to Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue, and also built championship teams in Cleveland and Baltimore. His skills as an owner and league contributor were matched only by his great sense of humor. Any conversation with Art included laughs. He always left you with a smile on your face. We extend our condolences to John, David and the rest of the Modell family.”
Modell, who purchased the Browns for what was then an unprecedented price ($4 million in 1961), brought the NFL back to Baltimore on Feb. 9, 1996. It was not an easy move to make for the proud Modell, but he did not leave the fans of Cleveland empty-handed. He left the name “Browns,” the team colors and the great Browns’ history.
“That didn’t happen in Baltimore with the Colts, in Brooklyn with the Dodgers, or in other cities that lost sports teams,” Modell explained at the time.
“He was my friend, my mentor," said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. "We will miss him so much. How lucky are all of us to have had Art in Baltimore? How fortunate I am to have had him teach me about the NFL. His generosity, his love, his humor, his intelligence, his friendship – we were all blessed by this great man. We will strive to live up to his standard.”
Added Ravens GM & Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, who played for the Browns when Modell owned them, "Art was a giant in our industry. He was my boss — but he wouldn’t let me call him that — my mentor, and most importantly, my friend. He was the most caring, compassionate person I’ve ever known. The opportunities he gave me are historic, and I will be forever humble and grateful.”
Modell was a fervent philanthropist, donating and raising millions for many civic and charitable causes after purchasing the Browns. He served on multiple civic, educational and charitable boards, but he was devoted to aiding those in need of medical care and helping institutions raise money to better good health. For 20 years, he served on the board of the famed Cleveland Clinic, serving seven (1988-1995) years as president. Recently, Art headed a $100 million Heart Institute Fund for the equally renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine. He and his wife Pat’s devotion and generosity to the arts is noted with the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center in downtown Baltimore.
Many figures from throughout the NFL reacted to the news of Modell's passing by offering their remembrances and tributes:
Former NBC-TV president Dick Ebersol:
“I believe very strongly that Art Modell is one of the most important figures in the history of the modern NFL. He and Pete Rozelle developed the magic formula that married the potential of television to the game. Those funds from this marriage propelled the game into what it is today. Art was there with Pete, and Art made it happen. Those two, along with Well Mara – who convinced other owners about the power of shared revenue – are the three men who pushed the NFL into what we know today.
“My good fortune is that I met Art when I was a 20-year-old intern for Roone Arledge, and he was creating the first Monday night game. He treated that intern the same as he treated a 60-something TV executive many years later. He always made me feel special. He was open and natural, and there was not a phony bone in his body. His humor could solve the biggest obstacles. When I first became president of NBC Sports, I went to Cleveland to visit with Art. The thoughts he shared with me about television helped me gain success. His efforts in three-plus decades of steering the NFL’s TV committee are monumental. The debt owed by his fellow owners, the current owners and everyone else who has made a living off the NFL, is incalculable. The good news is that Pat [Modell] will now be back with her Art.
“But, I am so saddened with one thing: Art did not get to experience an induction into the Hall of Fame. The leaders in Cleveland, when he moved to Baltimore, put Art in an untenable situation and left him with the hard choice of moving. That scarred some people on Art. I hope in death Art is placed where he should be – in Canton in the Hall of Fame.”
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue:
“Art Modell made extraordinary contributions to the National Football League during his decades as an NFL owner. When he stepped away from operating the Baltimore Ravens in 2004, his 43 seasons in the league represented more than half of the NFL’s history. Art contributed to the NFL’s growth and success through the performance of his teams, his recognition of the unique place our sport has in American life, his active participation in the league’s governance, and his support of civic and community organizations. He was a trusted advisor to both Commissioner Rozelle and me during our time in office. His wisdom, knowledge and wit kept both of us grounded in the toughest of circumstances. My deepest sympathies to David, John and the entire Modell family on their loss.”
NFL executive Joe Browne, the longest-serving employee in the league office:
“Art Modell was a most influential member of Commissioner Rozelle’s ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ for many years, along with Dan Rooney and the late Tex Schramm. Ironically, Art is the only member of that group who is not enshrined in Canton. Hopefully, the Hall of Fame media selectors will rectify that oversight in the near future – not as an emotional reaction to Art’s death, but as a rightful reflection of his longtime contributions to the NFL.”
New York Giants president and CEO John Mara:
“Art Modell was one of the greatest owners in the history of the NFL. He contributed in so many ways to the success of this league, and he deserves a place in Canton. More importantly, he was a decent man and a great friend to my family. We will miss him dearly.”
New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft:
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Art Modell. I regret that I hadn’t talked to him since the passing of his wife, Pat, last year. We both shared that experience, and I know how hard that was for Art. When I first entered the league, Art was quick to welcome me, and I always appreciated that. He leaves a lasting legacy for the many contributions he made to the National Football League. The one thing that I always admired most about Art was his understanding of the role television would play in the growth of the game of football and the overall popularity of the NFL. He understood the value of primetime games at a time when there really wasn’t a tremendous demand. He helped negotiate and launch ABC’s Monday Night Football in 1970. I can’t remember what Monday nights were like during the fall before Monday Night Football, nor could I imagine them without football today. Football fans everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for that alone. I speak for my entire family in extending our heartfelt sympathies to the Modells.
Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr.:
“On behalf of my wife Martha, our entire family and the Lions organization, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to David and John and everyone who knew and loved Art.
“Art was a great personal friend, and we shared many wonderful times together over the years. The game of football lost one of its’ all-time greats today. Art’s contributions to the NFL during his five decades in the game are immeasurable. I believe that Art did as much as any owner to help make the NFL what it is today. Art was a pioneer, a visionary and a selfless owner who always saw the big picture and did the right thing. Our game would not be what it is today if it weren’t for Art Modell."
Philadelphia Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie:
“I will always be thankful for the way Art Modell reached out to me and made me feel welcome when I first became owner of the Eagles. Art was a man with a wonderful sense of humor. He also had a visionary grasp of the importance of making professional football accessible to television audiences, helping build the sport’s popularity to this day. We extend our condolences to the Modell family on his passing.”
Denver Broncos owner and CEO Pat Bowlen:
“Art Modell and I certainly had a history together, most notably from our teams meeting three times in a four-year period playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. In addition to making the Broncos-Browns into a fierce rivalry, those AFC Championship Games formed a common bond between the both of us as owners. Our teams had some great battles – there was no question about that. There really wasn’t a tougher place we had to play than Cleveland during that time period under Art in the late 1980s.
“We also had the opportunity to work together on several league committees and initiatives over the years. During Art’s four decades of ownership in the NFL, he had a strong impact on the league and was a great influence to so many in the game. He was competitive, passionate and very knowledgeable as an owner.
“On behalf of the Denver Broncos, I extend our sympathies and prayers to the Modell family during their time of loss.”
Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill:
“When you look at those most responsible for the growth and tremendous popularity of the NFL, Art Modell has to rank high on that list. The backbone of that success has been the league’s relationship with network television, something Art was instrumental in shaping. Personally, when I think of Art, I will always remember his great stories and sense of humor, his generosity and civic leadership, and his passion for the game of football.”
Houston Texans founder, chairman and CEO Bob McNair:
“Art Modell was a very popular owner. He was very creative in marketing the NFL and made a lot of contributions in terms of expanding the fan base.”
Former NFL QB and Ravens director of pro personnel James Harris:
“First thing that comes to my mind are the contributions Art made to the NFL: his teams, to television, to naming Ozzie [Newsome] as general manager. He was a pioneer. Working with him, you got to see what a great person he was. He cared about all of us – players, coaches, scouts, everyone in the front office. Genuine is a word I would use to describe Art. He was a special, special man. And, it’s a shame he is not in the Hall of Fame. He belongs there, and a lot of us know that.”
Longtime Browns and NFL personnel executive Michael Lombardi:
“Vision, humor and generosity always guided Art Modell’s life. His humor made him a daily pleasure to encounter. His genuine generosity, which supplied you with the tools to learn – as well as work your craft – will always be cherished, but his futuristic vision left a lasting impact on the game he deeply loved.”
Longtime Browns and Ravens personnel executive Phil Savage:
“My thoughts of Art Modell have always been wonderfully positive. One of the things that he will always be remembered for is his quick wit. He was incredibly sharp-minded when it came to one-liners and stories that happened to him through the years.
“I think the thing that I admire most about Mr. Modell is that he persevered through some tough times. He was a man that experienced being on a mountain top, but also had been through some very significant low points as well. He was always able to keep a positive spirit and break the tension with that sense of humor that he had.
“Like I said, all of my experiences with him were great – 14 years, including five with the Browns and nine with the Ravens. I think he always felt a little bit more of a loyalty to those of us that made that transition from Cleveland to Baltimore. It was a difficult time for a lot of people, but through a lot of support from he and his family and the leadership of Ozzie [Newsome], we were able to reach that Super Bowl. I think that there was a real connection between he and the team and the players. I think the players loved him, and he loved his players. Over the years, I think almost every player that you could talk to would say they enjoyed playing for him and his teams because he had such a passion for pro football.”
Ravens front-office staffer Chad Unitas, son of the late Johnny Unitas:
“Art Modell was a true visionary and leader in the NFL and community. In the Ravens’ first year, I remember going to practices with my dad, sitting on Art's golf cart and listening to Art ask my father how he could help him and all the older players with their disabilities. He cared more about them than he did about himself. He was a true gentleman that will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick:
“Art Modell was all about family, and that’s how he directed the Ravens. He treated me, my family and everyone in the organization like a member of his family. Before I think of the gratitude I owe him for giving me the opportunity to be his head coach, I think of the way he treated all of us. I don’t believe there’s another NFL franchise that embraces that more than Art did. That was reflected in the people he hired. He created an atmosphere that was the best. It was a joy to come to work for him. He accomplished so much as an owner: championships, playoffs, the TV contracts, the leadership in the NFL. They are all great and deserving of the Hall of Fame. Those who worked with Art will all say the same thing. He was a Hall of Fame person.”
Former Browns, Chiefs and Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer:
“No, no, this is sad news. I loved Art Modell, and I was just thinking of him yesterday. He was a man’s man, someone you wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with. He gave me my first head coaching job, and we had the most fun working together. We didn’t win the biggest prize, but we were awfully close, and we had a ball trying to get there. Art made it fun. His humor was the best, and my wife, Pat, always said what a gentleman he is – classy, and he ran his franchise that way. I have only good memories of Art.”
Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher (who played and coached for Modell in Cleveland):
“One thing about Art, he loved his teams and his players more than anyone I met. He embraced his team with his whole heart and everything else he had. He took great pride in those who worked for him. Art always wanted to do the right things for his team – help in any way. I have great respect for him as a person. He wanted to help people who needed it, and he did so much for so many. Even when I was the head coach in Pittsburgh, I was so happy he won the Super Bowl. He deserved that championship, and it was tremendous to see him get it.”
Former Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano:
"Art was my friend and supporter. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Art was a hands-on owner, he never rode shotgun – whether at practice, the draft, or even at meetings. He was willing to do the real work to make us better. If Art could have given the trophy to Cleveland, I believe he would have. The people in Baltimore certainly deserved it. There are some here in Cleveland who still love him. Art Modell was a major contributor to an era of football that was the best the NFL ever had."
Former Browns defensive coordinator and current Alabama head coach Nick Saban:
“I think Art is what I would call a legacy owner. Whether it’s the Modell family or the Rooney family or the Mara family, the old, traditional franchises had a tremendous amount of responsibility for building the league in the early stages, and Art was certainly one of those. He’s also a man who I have a tremendous amount of respect for by the way he treated me and my family when I worked there for him. When I got the head coaching job at Michigan State, he hired a secretary and had her take all the calls until I finished the season, and we had a playoff team. Lots of things like that that didn’t have to be done, just there to serve someone else who he thought he could help. I think he is one of the great all-time owners in the league. He also had a great sense of humor and was a lot of fun to be around.”
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh:
“By a Providential twist of fate, we came to be friends of Art and Pat Modell and their wonderful family. Pat took my wife under her wing and made her feel like they had been friends forever. Art made me feel like I could accomplish anything. He was the most encouraging soul I ever came across. He uplifted everybody around him. I loved Art, and he loved my family, including my parents. He welcomed us to Baltimore with genuine warmth and grace.
“Art continued to be a big part of this great organization. He spoke to our team every year, and he interacted with the players and coaches whenever he was here. This was a strong and good man. He was a winner in every way. And his humor … He always, in every situation, made us laugh. He is in God’s company, along with Pat, and Art is telling some good ones right now!
“It is important to mention some things about Art:
“Art Modell was a visionary who broke barriers to help make the NFL what it is today and to help move our society forward in important ways. It was Art’s vision that married the NFL and TV together like nothing else in the history of sports and entertainment. He saw it first and drove it home with the networks and the league. Art negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in NFL history. On those two accomplishments alone, the NFL moved to the forefront of sport in America. Art also started Monday Night Football. How great it is that we are playing in the Monday Night Football opener this week? We should all salute him for that. Art was a frontrunner in breaking racial and gender barriers in sports. He was ahead of his time and pioneered change for the good. And, Art was a winner. There are a multitude of playoff teams and division champions, and he won the Lombardi Trophy right here with his beloved Ravens.
“It is often said about those inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame: ‘Can you write the history of the league without him?’ The answer with Art Modell is resounding. He was a great leader, but more importantly, he was truly a good man.”
Former Browns executive vice president and Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi:
"The NFL has lost a beloved member of its family. Along with Pete Rozelle, Art Modell helped revolutionize television's impact on sports; created preseason doubleheaders that drew 80,000 when the games were drawing 15,000; won two championships. He was a true bon vivant and a wonderful man to work for.
“There is a lot of laughter in heaven today. Art Modell has arrived with some great lines."
Pittsburgh Steelers chairman emeritus Daniel Rooney:
“Art Modell was a good friend to our family, and he will be sadly missed. He was instrumental in helping the National Football League become what it is today, and he always had the league’s best interest at hand. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family, as he will be missed dearly by the Steelers organization and the Rooney family.”
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr.:
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Art Modell. Art and I were good friends, and while we remained competitive in respect to our teams, we shared many laughs over the years. He was an influential figure in our league and was respected tremendously within the NFL ownership group. Art was a loving family man, and he and Pat made a great team. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his sons David and John and the entire Modell family and all of his friends.”
Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay:
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Art Modell, one of the most significant figures in the history of the National Football League. His leadership was instrumental in the growth and success of this sport, and his contributions were countless. Art was also a gentleman and a caring person, and his support of community causes made him a role model for many. On behalf of the Colts organization, our condolences go out to David, John and the entire Modell family.”
Former Browns Pro Bowl DT Jerry Sherk:
“Art Modell was an innovator, and he will take his place with other long-time owners that have had a major impact on the NFL. He was instrumental in the AFL/NFL merger and in bringing Monday Night Football to life.
“Personally, I will remember Art for his quick wit and for his appreciation of a good joke. But mostly, I will remember him for his affection for the game. Art loved the NFL, and he loved his players. I join with my teammates – the Cleveland Browns that played for Art – in sending condolences to John and David Modell, and the rest of the Modell family.”
Former Browns Pro Bowl RB Kevin Mack:
“I hate hearing this news. From where I was before I came to the Browns, and then early in my career with the team, to the person I became at the end of my playing career, I owe Art Modell. He saved me. He was the one person who stood by me and gave me a second chance. I know what the majority of Clevelanders feel, and I understand some of that. But, he saw my goodness. He pushed me in the right direction. I could never thank him enough.”
Former Baltimore Colts DB Bruce Laird:
"Art Modell was a man of passion and compassion. He meant so much to his players, because he knew about them, their lives, their wives and families.
“He ran a family football business, and it was family first. For Art, it was also the family of football – not the business of football. And obviously, he entered the league when it needed him most, at the right time, in 1961."
Former Broncos and Ravens TE Shannon Sharpe:
“Mr. Modell was one of the main reasons I came to Baltimore. I remember when I met him. He flew down to see me, and we flew back up to Baltimore together, and he learned so much about me and my family, and I learned about him as a man. I remember his words so vividly: He said, ‘Ozzie, get this deal done,’ and that was the start of something beautiful.
“One of my favorite moments in the NFL was when he spoke to us in the locker room after the Super Bowl victory. He said, ‘This is the proudest day of my life; you guys make me proud.’ And then he started to break down. That touched me. You could not only see the emotion from him and from all of us in that room, you could feel it. Knowing how long he had been in the NFL and how many great players he had been around, it was such a great feeling to give him something that he wanted for so long. We all wanted it for him!
“You see how close he was with his boys and how much he loved his wife, and he brought that atmosphere to the Ravens. He always had something positive to say, always had a joke to make you smile. I still picture him on his golf cart watching every practice, no matter what the weather was like. We were all in it together. The sport you see on TV today and what the NFL means to our society is in large part due to Mr. Modell.
“He was a great man, and I just wish that everyone got a chance to see him in the light that we did as players. It is a very sad day. I will miss my friend.”
Former Ravens OT Jonathan Ogden:
“Art was more than a great owner; he was a great man. When I first met him, and he welcomed me to Baltimore, I knew he was special. The Ravens organization was a special place to be. He was more concerned with everyone else than he was about himself. Always wanted to know about how you and your family were doing. He is definitely one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met. It would be very difficult to imagine what the NFL would be like today without a visionary like Art Modell. He was a ‘glass half full’ person every day of his life. I will never forget how he treated me and my family. He will always have a very special place in my heart.”
Ravens LB Ray Lewis:
“When you think about Art Modell, you think about a great man, a leader, a father and a servant. Every minute of his life, he cared more about everyone around him than himself. Anytime I saw him, he would always make me smile. He always had a joke to lighten your mood or some sort of wisdom to impart to make you a better man. I genuinely loved Art as a man, and he showed me what to strive for in life. When you truly see the impact he had on everyone he touched, it humbles you. When I found out he wasn’t doing well, I knew immediately I had to see him. When I was with him yesterday, I prayed with him and shared with him things that a son would say to a father. Even though he has left us, he is going to a place that one day we all want to be. I am truly blessed to have had Art in my life. He was a humble servant, and one of the best men I have ever known.”
Former Browns/Ravens DE Rob Burnett:
“I met Art 20 years ago, and he was my boss for 12 years. Not many people have had a bigger influence on my life than he did. He is part of my family, and he has always made me feel like I was part of his. He was a trailblazer and a big reason why the NFL is where it is now. There are no owners in history who could compare to him as a philanthropist and businessman. You look at the things that he has done for people, how many times he gave people second, third and fourth chances when other people wouldn’t have. He was a great humanitarian. Any chance I get, I tell people what a special person he was. There aren’t many people I could say this about, but I always knew I could count on him, and I think he knew he could always count on me. I will miss him dearly.”
Former Browns/Ravens PK Matt Stover:
“I worked for Art for 18 years, and he is paramount to what the NFL is today. He was a visionary, and everyone who works in or is a fan of the NFL owes Art Modell a debt of gratitude and great appreciation for what he did to make this game great. As a man, he was one of the most philanthropic people I know. All of the tremendous things he stood for he passed on to his family, community and the people that he worked with, and that has made the Ravens and the NFL a better place.
“Art always empowered me to be my best, and did the same for everyone around him. I remember in Cleveland when I missed a field goal and was down on myself, and Art called me on the sideline phone. He told me, ‘Just hit the next one, kid.’ I’m not sure how many other owners would have done that. He was a special man and will be sorely missed by my family and me.”
Former Browns and Ravens RB Earnest Byner:
“The thing about Mr. Modell, his heart was always one of giving. That man did a lot for Cleveland, he did a lot for the players that were on that team, and he gave a lot of people a lot of second chances in life. He’s a juggernaut in the league because of what he did for Monday Night Football. He was a visionary, and he had the heart of a champion. For me, that pretty much says it all.
“He gave me an opportunity. When I was deciding to retire, and I told him I wanted to coach. He told me, ‘You can go look around and see if anyone else wants to sign you, but you will always have a home here.’ When I came back, he allowed me to develop as a young coach, a young scout, let me work in the weight room – all the stuff I wanted to do. He gave me the ability to do that, and he looked after me the way a father would.
“The league might have taken longer to get where it is were it not for him. He had the vision and the forethought to put some things out there that other people hadn’t thought about, as far as handling revenue and how TV was being used to make the league bigger and better. I think that was really huge, really big for him to have that mind.
“I think he missed his calling – he should have been a comedian. He could tell a story, he could make light of different situations. We’d be busting a gut sometimes on some serious stuff, making some serious decisions, and be busting a gut because he had that natural gift of levity. I loved that about him and am definitely appreciative of all that he, Mrs. Modell and that family did for me.”
Former Ravens DT Tony Siragusa:
“Art was like a father to me and to all of his players. From the first time I met him, he always treated us players like his kids, but also treated us like men. When we won the Super Bowl, he was as big a part as anyone. We wanted to win it for him. Art was a man; you could talk to him about anything in life – not just football – and you would always come out wiser. Art is and always will be a family member to me.”
Former Ravens WR Qadry Ismail:
“When you look at the situation that players can be in, it’s such a cutthroat business, and there are a lot of tough decisions that have to be made. I am proud to say that I played for Art Modell. I am proud to say that I played for the Baltimore Ravens. I am proud to say that I am a part of this organization. I am proud to wear the championship ring that is on my figure, because Art Modell has set a high standard of quality, excellence, family and commitment to doing what is right. I will be forever grateful and indebted to the man that helped me in my career, as well as the impact he has made in my life as a man.
“Art has meant so much to not only the NFL community, but also the Ravens’ community and people of Baltimore and Maryland. I am thankful that I have been a part of that legacy. I am thankful that I have been able to be in a spot where it’s not about just playing a game, but it’s also about affecting other’s lives in a positive way. Art Modell, from the way he runs his organization to the way he carries himself as a man, has impacted me so much.
“I am so thankful that Art has been able to be a part of my life, especially at a time as a player when I was just starting my family. The one story that comes to my mind is when my son had a fall and broke his leg, and it required surgery. Art – he didn’t have to – but he made a phone call to the hospital about this. I remember sitting there stressed out, not sure whether my son was going to be able to be seen by a doctor. A person from the hospital came in and said, ‘You must know someone in high places. You are getting surgery pretty quickly.’ I was like, ‘Wow, OK!’ I came later to find out that it was Art who had made the call to have my family taken care of. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to go out of his way.”
Former Ravens RB Jamal Lewis:
“Art meant so much to me because he gave me an opportunity when there were some people questioning me as a player and person. As an owner, he never missed a practice. Rain, sleet, snow, whatever, you always saw him on his cart. That set the tone for us as a team, especially during the Super Bowl run. He was at every practice, knew every player’s name and treated us like men. He ran a first-class organization, and what you see in the Ravens today was built on Art’s legacy. He was a great man, and as much as it saddens me that he is gone, I’m happy he is reunited with Pat.”
Former Browns, Cowboys and Dolphins QB Bernie Kosar:
“I had a special relationship with Mr. Modell, and he’s probably angry that I’m not calling him Art. We were close when I played for him and became even closer through our adversities. He was such a caring person. The first thing he would ask is, ‘How are you doing? How are the kids?’ He told me that I was like a son to him, and that made me proud. A lot of Clevelanders wouldn’t believe this, but Art is one of the most loyal and trusting persons I’ve ever met. Maybe that led him to some decisions that not everyone liked. But, he was tough – always willing to take the brunt of things on his shoulders. He didn’t blame others. This is a sad day for me. I truly valued his friendship and will miss that.”
Ohio native and former Baltimore Colts LB Stan White:
“I feel like I’ve known Art Modell and his family my whole life, growing up around Cleveland and growing up watching the Cleveland Browns as a kid. Playing in the NFL, my association with Art grew as I became involved with the league through the Players Association. Then, I represented [former Browns DB] Frank Minnifield, one of his players, and got to know Art even better at that point. Of course, when he brought the team to Baltimore, I got to know him – I wouldn’t say intimately – but I got to know him fairly well.
“Art, to me, is just one of the great men of football, along with the Rooneys and the Maras. The men like that built this game for everybody that ever played, particularly the guys that are playing today. We all know his involvement in getting television involved with the NFL, with Monday Night Football. But more so, with the way he ran a football team, he treated his players as men and really cared about them. It’s a cruel business at times, but it’s always how you do things, and Art always did it with class and dignity, and you couldn’t say more about a person than you can say about Art.
“I coached his grandson at Gilman [School], and I got to know Art a little bit more through that. The whole Modell family has been such a gift to Baltimore, and Art Modell has been a gift to anybody who has ever been associated with football on any level – but particularly with the National Football League. Art Modell is a giant, and he will be missed.”
Doug Dieken, the longest-tenured player in Browns' history:
“The thing that always stands out for me when I think of Art is his sense of humor. He liked to laugh. We'd be angry at each other while negotiating a contract, would have our battles, and he would still find a way to bring humor into it. Art was the last millionaire in what has become a billionaire business, and he tried to make it work. He treated players fairly, and you knew he was in your corner. He was what I would call a ‘players' owner.’
“I think the players today making so much money should thank Art for his contributions to their pockets. His work with generating more money through TV is a big part of the paychecks today. He was a real competitor. It hurt him to lose, and he'd wear it on his sleeve, just like he would the wins. He did all he could to make us winners.
“I think what he did when he left Cleveland was not right, but there were others here who were wrong, too. It's a shame that one decision hurt how some people think of him, because he did so much good. He gave people chances, and he helped a lot of people get a better life. He always looked out for the underdog and the underprivileged.”
Former Browns RB-RS Dino Hall:
“Art had a passion and a real love for the game of football. He was the true fan. I can remember him walking the sidelines at camps and at game time; he really was a true fan of football. For a long time, he meant a lot to Cleveland in a positive way, and he was a positive influence in that he loved Cleveland.”
Former Browns OG Robert Jackson:
“From the time I was a rookie free agent with the Browns to today, Art made me feel like part of a family. That’s the way he treated his players. He was very fair, often tearing up contracts of players who were playing better and giving them new ones. My era of Browns, we respected him. In fact, a bunch of us got together in June and told stories about Art and those teams we played on. When I think of Art, I think of a good person who was fun to be around and knew how to have fun. And, I think of a person who cared a lot about people – how he could help them – and he did help so many.”
Former Browns RB Greg Pruitt:
"I have always thought so highly of Mr. Modell. And even after I got traded from the Browns to the Raiders, he made a point to apologize to me for the trade. It was something he didn't want to do. He drafted me, and I became a Cleveland Brown. We had a lot of good times. He was always a great guy to me, and I was very close to Mrs. Modell. I was in love with his wife and his kids. On road trips, the kids would always come around me, and I would babysit. That was good; I liked it."
Former Baltimore Colts RB Tom Matte:
“He was a special guy to me. I call him a very close friend. We came into the league together in 1961. What he's done for football can't be measured. This man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Former Browns OG John Wooten:
“First and foremost, our relationship goes back to the 1960’s when he first bought the Cleveland Browns. He was one of the great, great owners in the NFL. He was a man that sacrificed and did the things to make the NFL what it is today. He was an owner who excelled in dealing with players, working with the public and making sure that our game was growing. He sacrificed.
“He worked alongside Lamar Hunt, Tex Schramm, Well Mara and Art Rooney – and all of those men are in the Hall of Fame. He worked with them in all of those meetings. He was there. It is indeed a shame that he is not in the Hall of Fame.
“I can't tell you how bad I want Art to be in the Hall of Fame.”
To read Steve DiMatteo's column about Art Modell, click here.