Players, Coaches Speak of a Generous Modell
CLEVELAND — Former Browns players and coaches remembered Art Modell as a generous man who treated his players well behind the scenes.
Modell died of natural causes on Thursday morning. At one time he owned the Cleveland Browns for 35 years.
Sam Rutigliano, who was hired and fired as head coach of the Browns by Art Modell, says he does not hold any grudges.
Rutigliano says Modell did a lot for players that he knows about, but for which Modell never wanted any attention.
He also says Modell’s generosity to the city extended even beyond the NFL.
“What he did at the Cleveland Clinic, what he did when he put down $12 million to redo the stadium, he put in all the loges and his wife was on the board at Ursuline College,” said Rutigliano, who also understands the heartache that fans suffered when Modell decided to move the team to Baltimore.
“I think he always felt embarrassed about having done what he did with all the loyalty. He knew how special this town is,” added Rutigliano.
Mike Pruitt, who played for the browns between 1976 and 1986, says one of his fondest memories of Art Modell was on draft day.
Pruitt, a running back, says he expected to be taken in the second or third round of the NFL Draft and told his friends not to call him until they knew where he was heading.
Pruitt says early that morning his phone rang, he picked it up and angrily said, “I told you not to call me.”
The voice on the other end was that of Art Modell, who told him the Browns had selected him in the first round.
Pruitt says Modell was always very generous to him and to other players.
“Art took care of a lot of people, people who knew Art knew that he had a big heart and he’s helped a lot of athletes, including myself,” said Pruitt.
The former running back also said he understands the city’s anger because of the move.
“Yes there is a love-hate relationship in the City of Cleveland here about Art Modell but when I think back about the things I learned from Art, what I got from Art and the things Art has done for me and a lot of players I know, there’s always going to be a love for Art,” Pruitt said.
Former Browns backup quarterback Mike Pagel says Modell welcomed him to Cleveland by offering him a loan to help buy a house.
“He gave me a loan, predicated on me making the team,” said Pagel. “Gave me a loan to put a down payment on my house and I haven’t even played for him yet. I had just been traded up here and he was a guy who would help you in any way possible.”
Pagel continues to make Cleveland his home and he was as shocked as any fan when the team moved.
“The way he moved the team in the middle of the night and the behind the scenes deals and being on an airplane somewhere to sign the deal, all of a sudden I’m doing this and you have no say in the matter. That, to me as a fan, just drives me crazy,” said Pagel.
*For additional coverage on the life and passing of Art Modell, click HERE
Reggie Langhorn said his initial impression of Modell was not a good one.
“He would come to practices on Friday, he would shake Ozzie (Newsome’s) hand, Earnest (Byner’s), Bernie (Kosar’s), Clay (Matthews’) hands, and I go, ‘well why wouldn’t he shake my hand, I’m standing right here. Well you got to do something before he shakes your hand,” explained Langhorn.
Langhorn also continues to make Cleveland his home well after his retirement from the game.
“For me as an individual it shows little class if his name was to be announced in the stadium and they boo him,” said Langhorn, who added, “a man lost his life. Yes, we are aware of it, we got it, you don’t like Art Modell but still compassion should come in a small way. You don’t have to cheer for him but you don’t have to boo him either,” concluded Langhorn.
Doug Dieken, who continues to do play-by-play for the Browns years after his retirement, believes we may never know all of the reasons Modell made the fateful decision to move the team from Cleveland.
Dieken remembers Modell as a businessman who met him at a restaurant during a difficult contract negotiation, came to terms and then instructed Dieken to pick up the tab for the meal.
He believes the bitterness in Cleveland toward the decision to move the team will eventually ease if or when the present Browns start having winning seasons.