Football is an emotional game. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is one of the game's most emotional and intimidating players.
So when you see this menacing force of a man fighting back tears before a game, you take notice.
There are things that transcend football and remind us all that it's just a game, and this was one of the those moments.
Art Modell, the man largely responsible for bringing football back to Baltimore and building a championship team in a winning-deprived city, died less than a week ago. The Ravens honored Modell with a moment of silence before the national anthem in Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
As the M&T Bank Stadium crowd grew quiet, Lewis said a prayer and then looked to the heavens, his eyes filling up with water for a man he loved. Lewis considered Modell a father figure in his life, and was with the former Ravens owner in his final hours. The loss hit Lewis hard.
"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. When I found out he wasn't doing well, I knew immediately I had to see him. When I was with him yesterday, I prayed with him and shared with him things that a son would say to a father. Even though he has left us, he is going to a place that one day we all want to be. I am truly blessed to have had Art in my life. He was a humble servant, and one of the best men I have ever known."
Without Modell moving the team from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996, Lewis doesn't win Super Bowl XXXV 34-7 over the New York Giants at the end of the 2000 season.
Remember, it was Modell who stuck by Lewis during his darkest moments. As Lewis fought charges of two counts of malicious murder, two counts of felonious murder, and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon before the 2000 season, Modell stood behind him. Even after the All-Pro linebacker pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of obstruction of justice, he was welcomed back to the team with open arms. Perhaps other owners would've cut Lewis loose and dumped him from the team, and how different Lewis' life might have been. Not Modell.
While the former owner will forever be seen as a pariah in Cleveland, he will be equally loved in Baltimore. None more than by Lewis.
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