David Modell, Baltimore Ravens' 1st president, dies at 55
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — David Modell, the first president of the Baltimore Ravens and the son of former team owner Arthur Modell, died Friday. He was 55.
He had cancer for two years, the team said.
Modell served as president of the Ravens from their beginning in 1996 until 2004. He was instrumental in the selection of the team's name and
Modell and his father worked in tandem to make sure the team flourished following its relocation from Cleveland in 1995. The younger Modell's focus was not only to make the Ravens a winner, but to do it with class.
"I don't want us just to be the best football team," he said early in his days as team president. "We aspire to be the best business organization. We want to set the standard on and off the field."
Modell played a role in hiring coach Brian Billick, who led Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory in 2000.
Ted Marchibroda coached the Ravens in 1996 and 1997. In looking for his replacement, Modell organized a group of Ravens executives and outlined a profile of the ideal head coach. The group then researched approximately 50 candidates before focusing on Billick.
"I was very impressed with David's approach, and he led the Ravens and me to Brian," Art Modell said after the team beat the New York Giants to become NFL champions.
Billick on Friday said Modell was "at the very core of our success with the Ravens."
Modell, like his father, made a point of treating the players as family rather than employees.
"His father was like a father to me, and David was like a brother," former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "He had a way of making everyone around him feel special, which was such a gift. I feel truly blessed to have known him."
Former Ravens defensive lineman Rob Burnett, who came to Baltimore from Cleveland, watched David Modell grow into a job that wielded great authority.
"When I first got to know David, he was the kid and ended up as the boss," Burnett said. "From the time I met him, he treated me like we were friends and partners. I consider him a brother."
Modell's first NFL job with the Browns came when he was 14, assisting with game-day operations. He went on to work in the team's ticket office and public relations department before starting the marketing division, a first for an NFL team. He also served on the league's Stadium and Expansion Committees.
Modell was involved in many local charities. He received the Ed Block Courage Award for Courage, Compassion, Commitment and Community in 2002.
David Modell's connection with the team ended soon after Art Modell sold the Ravens to Steve Bisciotti in 2004.
"The children of accomplished leaders never receive as much credit for what they achieve when following in the footsteps," Bisciotti said. "Much of what the Ravens are today can be traced to David and what he directed and established. But, above all, he was a sweet, kind man who helped me when I was first involved."
Modell is survived by his wife, Michel, and their 2-year-old twins, Aoife and Bertram. He had four children from his first marriage: daughters Breslin and Collier and sons Arthur and David Jr.
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