Ray Lewis remembers Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on Thursday delivered an emotional tribute to longtime team owner Art Modell, who died earlier in the day, saying that Modell is "the only reason that I'm in Baltimore."

"Anytime you can leave a legacy like that, we shouldn't mourn -- we do -- but we should be celebrating him, because he was one of the most awesome men I've ever met in my life," the 13-time Pro Bowl defender said at a news conference.

Lewis was selected by the Ravens in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft (No. 26 overall) in their new city after Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996.

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Lewis quickly became the bedrock of the Ravens organization on the field, and helped lead them to the Super Bowl XXXV title -- Modell's first and only Super Bowl win.

"I think one of the greatest moment, of course, was actually bringing him the Lombardi Trophy. ... It capped off exactly the way it was supposed to end (for) somebody (that) had put in all that work, and now we were able to bring him what his true dream was -- the Lombardi Trophy."

Modell sold his majority stake in the Ravens to Steve Bisciotti in 2001 and still owned 1 percent of the team after the sale was completed three years later.

Lewis spoke of how Modell treated him with respect and how Modell became a father figure in his life.

"He never let me go," Lewis said. "He used to always ... whenever he saw me he would always tell me how much he loved me and how much I meant."

Modell's legacy in the NFL includes serving as NFL president from 1967 to 1969 and negotiating the NFL's television contracts between 1962 and 1993. He also led negotiations on the NFL's first collective bargaining agreement with its players in 1968.

Despite that, Modell has never been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a semifinalist for enshrinement eight times and a finalist once in 2001.

"When you talk about, when you think about Hall of Famers, hopefully, most Hall of Famers have left a legacy of impact; and if nothing else, Art left a legacy of pure impact," Lewis added. "That to me is what a true Hall of Famer, someone who leaves their footprints on something."

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