"I think that's a big part of who he is," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens' vice president of public relations and a confidant of Modell for more than 20 years. "He appreciates the common person. He appreciates hard work. And he's highly, highly competitive, yet he has this incredible compassion for being one tough guy."
By the age of 18, he began two years of service in the Air Force and then
enrolled in television school under the G.I. Bill. He produced Market
Melodies, one of the first regular television shows in the nation, but he
found his calling in the NFL.
One of his fondest memories is walking onto the field at Yankee Stadium for
the first time as an owner. He looked up at the seat - Section 16, Box 44a -
where he avidly watched Giants games.
At that moment, he realized being an owner doesn't stop you from being a
"Everything was a dream," Modell said.
A bond with players
Saying loyalty and Modell in the same breath would draw growls from
Cleveland's Dawg Pound. But there's no disputing that this hands-on owner
operates with a personal touch.
When former Browns Don Fleming and Ernie Davis died, Modell pitched in to
cover funeral costs. When another Brown, Eddie Johnson, suffered with cancer,
Modell quietly sent a $15,000 check to help handle medical bills.
And when Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with murder, it was Modell
who flew down to Atlanta to be a character witness at his bail hearing.
"The whole football team is like a family," said Modell's wife, Pat.
Art Modell is there for more than the bad times. He has taken several
players under his wing and allowed them to move off the field and into the
The Ravens' general manager (Ozzie Newsome), assistant pro personnel
director (Vince Newsome), director of player development (Earnest Byner) and
special teams assistant (Bennie Thompson) all played for Modell.
"I look at Art as a type of father because of the commitment that he's made
to me and the support that he's given me throughout my career," Byner said.
The starting point for all Modell's relationships is on the practice field.
After a player signs, he usually receives his first handshake from the owner.
Unlike many of his peers, Modell is a fixture at practice. Despite
suffering a heart attack and a stroke in the past 15 months, it's nearly
automatic that he'll be sitting in his golf cart on the sideline whether it's
100 degrees or snowing.
"Art talked with me every day," tight end Shannon Sharpe said during his
time with the Ravens. "He knew everything about what was going on in my life.
He showed real concern. But it wasn't just me. He knew the practice squad
players' names. He treated them the same."
No regrets about move
The dramatic losses by the Browns in the AFC championship games - from John
Elway's drive to Byner's fumble - stung Modell. However, the most painful
chapter of his life remains his move from Cleveland, which cuts deeper than
An unbearable stadium situation prompted Modell to uproot the beloved
Browns to Baltimore in 1996 and rename his franchise the Ravens. Although he
left the Browns' colors and tradition, the once well-respected member of the
Cleveland community became a villain in his adopted hometown of 35 years.
In final season, Modell leaves a lasting legacy
Ravens: Heading into his 43rd NFL training camp, owner Art Modell's career will be defined by his relentless will and wit.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.