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Art Modell Speaks Out on Ernie Davis Death

May 19, 1963 - In October, doctors and Cleveland Brown officials told Ernie Davis (left), who died yesterday at the age of 23, that his leukemia was in a remissive state, meaning the disease was arrested temporarily. That lasted for more than 6 months — or until 10 weeks ago. A man of tremendous pride, the soft-spoken Davis carried the burden of his illness within himself. The Heisman trophy winner felt sorry that he was being paid by the Browns but not playing. Before Davis entered the hospital two days ago, he stopped by the Browns’ office to talk to Arthur Modell (right), club president. “He was here for one hour,” Modell said today. “He told me he had to go the hospital, but that it was nothing serious and that he’d be out in a couple of days. His neck was swollen considerably, and we all knew what it meant. I think Ernie did too. He was coming by to say goodbye to me and the others. I asked him how he was feeling. All he would say was, ‘I’ve felt better, but it’s nothing to worry about. My throat hurts a little.’ He was apologetic about having to go into the hospital.” Jim Brown, Cleveland’s great fullback and the man who preceded Davis at Syracuse, was deeply touched by Ernie’s death. “This is a great personal loss,” Brown said. “He was a tremendous individual. He realized this was going to happen eventually, but he was courageous in the face of everything. He never showed his feelings to any of the guys.” Modell, who knew Davis for 18 months and went far beyond the normal relationship of owner-player in his association with Ernie, said he planned to start an Ernie Davis foundation for leukemia research. “The Browns will make a substantial contribution to get it started,” Modell said. “His mother has asked that instead of flowers, contributions should go to University Hospital in Cleveland for its leukemia research project.”


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