ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA -- Tom Modrak, who spent 10 years in the scouting department of the Buffalo Bills, died Tuesday at his home in St. Augustine, Florida. He was 74.
Modrak was diagnosed with a neurological disease in December, and was reportedly in hospice near the end of his life.
In a statement released by the Bills, Russ Brandon, Bills Managing Partner and President, said, “T-Mo was one of a kind. I’m grateful for the relationship we shared during our time in Buffalo. He was a great competitor, had a wonderful sense of humor and had a great perspective on life in the NFL. I always appreciated his text messages reminding me that ‘life is all about making memories.’ On behalf of the Pegulas and the entire Buffalo Bills organization, I want to extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Sandy, and the entire Modrak family. We are really going to miss him.”
Modrak came to the Bills in 2001, shortly after that year’s NFL Draft. He rejoined Tom Donahoe, who was then in his first year as the Bills’ general manager, after the two had worked together for several years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. When Donahoe was fired following the 2005 season, Modrak was retained, and he went on to run the Bills’ drafts until his dismissal in 2011.
After he left Buffalo, he became director of the BLESTO scouting combine and held that position until he fell ill.
“Tom Modrak had a remarkable career as an NFL personnel executive and influenced the scouting business and a countless number of scouts along the way,” said current Bills general manager Doug Whaley, who worked with Modrak both in Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
“Since we met more than 22 years ago in Pittsburgh, he was instrumental in helping me establish a career as an NFL personnel executive. Tom played a pivotal role in recommending me for my first full-time job in Seattle. I will fondly remember our friendship and the memories we shared. Tom was a devoted family man and well-liked by so many people.”
During Modrak’s time in Buffalo, the Bills never made the playoffs. He also was criticized after he took over the primary draft responsibilities. He whiffed on first-rounders John McCargo (2006) and Aaron Maybin (2009), but he also found a few gems such as Kyle Williams in the fifth round (2006), Stevie Johnson in the seventh round (2008), and Eric Wood, Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre in the first and seconds rounds in 2009.
Other first-round picks on his watch were Donte Whitner (2006), Marshawn Lynch (2007), Leodis McKelvin (2008) and C.J. Spiller (2010).
New Bills coach Sean McDermott was just starting his coaching career in Philadelphia when Modrak was general manager of the Eagles, his previous job before coming to Buffalo.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sandy and her family for the loss of a great football man and an even better person in Tom Modrak,” McDermott said. “He was a great influence on so many of us who were eager to learn anything we could at a young age in Philadelphia. One of my favorite things about Tom was that he was not about the limelight or personal attention. Instead, he always wanted what was best for the team. His legacy will be left on so many people throughout scouting departments and coaching staffs around the NFL.”
Jim Monos, the Bills’ director of player personnel, also worked under Modrak with the Eagles.
“Today, I lost a friend and one of the most influential mentors in my career in Tom Modrak,” he said. “While working together in Philadelphia, Tom put me on the right path to learn the foundation of the NFL scouting and personnel business. Throughout my career, I leaned on Tom for advice and he was always there for me along with many of the other scouts he mentored throughout his incredible 40-plus year run in the NFL.”
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