BEREA, Ohio (Oct. 27, 2005) -- Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel remembers watching Wellington Mara circle the Giants' practice field for exercise, observing from afar and not saying a single word.
Mara didn't have to.
"Wellington knew the business," said Crennel, speaking fondly of Mara, the longtime New York owner, who died Oct. 25 of cancer at 89. "He knew football in and out. He knew good coaches and bad coaches, good players and bad players, and he always had an affection for coaches and players."
Some of the game's best and brightest, including Crennel, Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, Carolina Panthers coach John Fox, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Tom Coughlin and the entire Giants team are expected to attend Mara's funeral on Oct. 28 at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. Parcells is a former Giants head coach and Crennel, Fox and Weis were all assistants with the team.
Crennel is skipping practice to pay his respects to the man who gave him his first job in the NFL.
After one year as a defensive line coach at Georgia Tech, Crennel joined the Giants in 1981 as their special teams coach and stayed with the club for 12 years, winning two Super Bowl titles.
During his time with the Giants, Crennel grew close to Mara, a father of 11 and one of pro football's most influential owners for more than a half century.
"He was a solid, down-to-earth person," Crennel said. "If you didn't know that he was the owner of an NFL team, you couldn't tell by his actions. He had no ego about him."
Crennel recalled Mara walking laps around the track and quietly watching practice, never bothering to interfere while the coaching staff instructed players. He knew his place, a trait some current sports owners could take a lesson from.
"He never said anything and he never complained," Crennel said. "I'm very respectful of what he has done for the NFL and for the Giants."