Art Modell, former owner of the Ravens and Browns, passed away from natural causes at the age of 87 on Thursday.
Besides being in the NFL for over 40 years with visions that helped form the league, Modell was known as a compassionate owner who took time to get to know every one of his players … and he always asked them to call him Art.
He helped countless former players get jobs across the league. He stood behind Ray Lewis during his murder trial.
Here’s what notable figures who have crossed paths with Art are saying about him:
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh:
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.
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.
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 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.
Former Broncos and Ravens TE Shannon Sharpe:
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!
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.
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 QB Bernie Kosar:
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.
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. 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.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
Art Modell’s leadership was an important part of the NFL’s success during the league’s explosive growth during the 1960s and beyond. 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.
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.