Art Modell was a hero in Baltimore, and for good reason. But Baltimore has known him mostly as an elderly man.
I was a football writer for the Pensacola, Fla. News-Journal 50 or so years ago. I covered the Senior Bowl each year back then when it was a struggling enterprise trying to get national recognition. In the course of that, I came to know the two guys who used to do the broadcast for the Senior Bowl — Red Grange and Steve Owen, who had been coach of the New York Giants.
After the game one year, I went into the restaurant where folks went out back then, and Mr. Grange waved me over to his table and invited me to join him. He was with Coach Owen and another fellow whom he introduced as Art Modell, the owner of the Browns. Mr. Modell then was a young and handsome and very vibrant fellow. That was an initial meeting, and there were a couple of other occasions, as I recall, under similar circumstances. Also, back then he caught an awful lot of heat for firing the God-like Paul Brown who had been the very successful coach of the Browns.
What is significant now, looking back over those years, is that all the NFL has become was forecast by Mr. Modell. He used to talk about an expanded football league, recognized that the then-new AFL would become significant, predicted that TV (then very limited) would become more important and that pro football was at the beginning of what was going to be big things.
He was so right. I think Art was more significant than any other owner in what the NFL has become. It is clear that he saw it all.
We will not see his like again.
Leo Coughlin, Lutherville