Of course, as human beings, I would like to think we all can put aside our allegiances and rooting interests to send condolences to his family. However, for Cleveland Browns fans, today must bring up a lot of old emotions, and maybe even some emotions that never left.
Not too many people are going to talk about how Modell's passing affects Syracuse Orange fans and yet, there is an undeniable link between the Modell's time with both the Browns and Ravens and Syracuse football players.
There was Jim Brown, the man to first link Syracuse 44 to Browns 44. He left as the league's best player and helped bring the team the 1964 NFL crown. Brown and Modell didn't always see eye to eye and Brown's retired was due in large part to Modell's demands, but they remained friends for years after.
He was followed by Ernie Davis, whom Modell did not draft but acquired to create what could have been the greatest backfield in the history of football. Alas, you know how Ernie Davis' story ends. But it's what Art Modell did for Davis and his family, despite the fact hat he never played a down for the Browns, that lives on.
John Brown, another Syracuse player who would suit up for the Cleveland Browns, remembers it well:
"When I heard about Art Modell's death, the first thing that came to mind was how well he treated Ernie and his mother," said [John] Brown, who named his son after Davis. "I'll never forget that. Here was a guy that was dying, and Art went beyond being an NFL owner in his quest to try to find a cure for Ernie. He also helped his mother face that and he helped her with the medical bills."
"The guy went all over the country trying to find somebody that may have had a cure," Brown said. " He didn't look at Ernie as an investment that went sour, he looked at Ernie as his son that needed help. I don't care what anyone else thinks of Art Modell, because what he did to help Ernie and his mother was honorable."
As the years went on there weren't many more notable Syracuse players on the Browns, though there were some. While this list includes members of the "new" Browns, there's still a few SU names from Modell's time.
Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1996 and sold his majority interest in 2004. However, the team wouldn't be there without him and therefore so many recent and current Syracuse players wouldn't be Ravens.
Routinely, the Ravens, along with the Colts, boast the most amount of SU players in any given season. I don't know if there is rhyme or reason to it, but it's true. Rob Burnett, Qadry Ismail, Kevin Johnson, Adam Terry, Jameel McClain, Arthur Jones...
Modell was not a Syracuse man in the sense that he went to SU or had any kind of rooting interest. But he ended up employing a lot of Syracuse men over his career, not to mention going above and beyond for one in particular. A tip of the cap for all of that, sir.