"Art was a special guy who did so much for the game and community," said Flacco, adding that the Ravens were inspired by Modell's spirit Monday night. "He was having fun upstairs, no doubt."
Players, politicians and ordinary people dressed in purple, mostly neckties or dresses, took part in the 90-minute service, a heartfelt celebration of the life of the man who brought the Ravens to Baltimore in 1996, following the Colts' departure 12 years earlier.
"Art gave us back our pride," Gov. Martin O'Malley said. "When the Ravens won the Super Bowl [in 2001], we had the bounce back in our step again. I'll never forget that day at City Hall, when he held up the [Vince Lombardi] trophy and people, black and white, hugged each other on those cobblestones.
Speakers included Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, who called Modell "a legend, a visionary and an original" who, as owner of the Cleveland Browns, helped create Monday Night Football in 1970.
"Many owners were against it at the time," Goodell recalled. "Art convinced them it would work. He said, 'I'll take the first [Monday night game] and show you. Just give me Joe Namath [and the New York Jets] at home.
"That game drew the largest crowd in Cleveland history."
Goodell was among those who remembered Modell's puckish sense of humor. Once, he said, before a game between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Steelers' owner Art Rooney — flanked by five priests — showed up at Modell's box to wish the Browns owner luck.
"As Rooney left, Art turned to his group and said, 'I need more rabbis.' "
Said Goodell, "We will miss him dearly, but with a smile on our face."
Lewis also spoke at the service, praising Modell's unabashed nature.
"This man used to grab me all the time, kiss me on my face and tell me how much he loved and cared for me," the Ravens' senior leader said. "This man lived a life that should make every person in this room smile and find a way to impact somebody along the way, because when all is settled, what will your legacy be? At the end [of Modell's life], we can say, 'well done.' "
Others in attendance: Steve Bisciotti, Jim Irsay and Jerry Jones, owners of the Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, respectively; John Harbaugh and Brian Billick, Baltimore's head coaches, present and past; and Jim Brown, Cleveland's Hall of Fame fullback.
Current Ravens players included receiver Torrey Smith and Haloti Ngata, the Pro Bowl defensive end who came "to support Art's family and to show my love for him."
John Modell acknowledged his father's repeated snub for inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"That recognition may come some day," he said. "But Art has already been enshrined in the hall that matters most — God's great hall. His bust already stands in the very front room of kindness, friendship, integrity, humility ... and love."
David Modell noted his father's benevolence, to groups and individuals.
"His name may be on buildings, but it's also etched in the hearts of those whose lives he quietly touched," Modell said.
He also recounted his father's last days, and how humor helped him cope.
"He was up to his old tricks at the [Johns Hopkins] hospital last week," Modell said. "Asked if he were comfortable, dad said, 'I make a living.' Asked how he slept, he said, 'Like a baby — I woke up every two hours, crying.' Asked how he felt, my father said, 'Like a 20-year-old, but where do you find one at this hour?'
"Even in his time of need, he had a smile for everyone who came into the room. When [a nurse] woke him up in the middle of the night to draw blood, Poppy looked at him and said, 'Thank you.' "
Before his dad died, David Modell said, "I was holding his hand. I told him, 'See, Poppy? Two grown men holding hands isn't so bad.' And he laughed. It was our last communication in this world, a laugh."