Art Donovan

Last updated

Art Donovan
Art Donovan 1961.jpg
No. 49, 39, 70
Position: Defensive tackle
Personal information
Born:(1924-06-05)June 5, 1924
Bronx, New York
Died:August 4, 2013(2013-08-04) (aged 89)
Baltimore, Maryland
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:275 lb (125 kg)
Career information
High school: Mount Saint Michael Academy
(The Bronx, New York)
College: Boston College
NFL Draft: 1947  / Round: 22 / Pick: 204
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Player stats at PFR
Art Donovan
Allegiance Flag of the United States.svg United States
Service/branch USMC logo.svg U.S. Marine Corps
Battles/wars World War II

Arthur James Donovan Jr. (June 5, 1924 – August 4, 2013), nicknamed the Bulldog, was an American football defensive tackle who played for three National Football League (NFL) teams, most notably the Baltimore Colts. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.


Early life

Art Donovan, born June 5, 1924, [1] was the son of Arthur Donovan, Sr., a boxing referee, and the grandson of Professor Mike Donovan, the world middleweight boxing champion in the 1870s.

Art attended Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx. He received a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame in 1942 but left after one semester to join the United States Marine Corps, enlisting in April 1943. He served four years, to include service in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He took part in some of the conflict's fiercest engagements, such as the Battle of Luzon and the Battle of Iwo Jima. He also served as an ammo-loader on a 40mm gun on the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto and as a member of 3rd Marine Division. His earned citations, which included the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal, and would later earn him a place in the U.S. Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame, the first pro football player so honored. After the war, he completed his college career at Boston College.

Professional football career

In each of his first three seasons, Donovan played for a team that went out of business. He started out with the first Baltimore Colts, which folded after his rookie season in 1950, followed by the New York Yanks in 1951, and their successor, the Dallas Texans, in 1952. After the Texans franchise folded, many of their players moved to Baltimore when the Colts were awarded a new franchise in 1953 and became the second Baltimore Colts, Donovan played with that team. He became one of the stars in an outstanding defense and was selected to five straight Pro Bowls, from 1953 through 1957. The Colts won back-to-back championships in 1958 and 1959. He was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968. [2]

During his career, Donovan played in what many believe was one of the most important games in NFL history, the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Colts and the New York Giants. [3] The contest between the two teams took place on December 28, 1958, and ended in a 17–17 tie. Because it was the championship game, it went into overtime, the first NFL game to do so. Witnessed by 40 million viewers on nationwide television, the game came to be known as the "greatest game ever played." Donovan made an important tackle during the overtime, stopping the Giants and allowing Johnny Unitas to lead the Colts on an 80-yard scoring drive to win the game. Donovan was one of 12 Hall of Fame players to take part, six of whom were Colts. [3]

Post-playing career

Donovan in 2010 Art donovan.jpg
Donovan in 2010

He published an autobiography, Fatso, in 1987. He was noted as a jovial and humorous person during his playing career and capitalized on that with television and speaking appearances after retiring as a player. He owned and managed a country club near Baltimore. Donovan also appeared ten times on the Late Night with David Letterman , telling humorous stories about his old playing days and about other "old school" footballers he played with and against. He relayed a story that he played without a helmet and in fact is shown on football cards without a helmet. Letterman wore Donovan's No. 70 Colts jersey in the famous Super Bowl XLI commercial with Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. [4] Donovan also made several appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson . [5] [6]

Donovan guest-starred in the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete in the episode "Space, Geeks, and Johnny Unitas". He also appeared as a guest commentator at the WWF King of the Ring tournament in 1994. [7] Donovan's appearance at the event would become infamous among wrestling fans for being seemingly uninformed about the product as well as generally befuddled behavior such as repeatedly asking how much certain wrestlers weighed. [8] He was joined by Gorilla Monsoon on play-by-play, who inadvertently referred to Donovan as "Art O'Donnell", and Randy Savage. [8]

He was co-host of the popular 1990s program Braase, Donovan, Davis and Fans on WJZ-TV in Baltimore with Colt teammate Ordell Braase. The trio talked more about Art Donovan's fabled stories than contemporary NFL football, but the show held high ratings in its time slot. He was also a pitchman for the Maryland State Lottery and ESPN.[ citation needed ]



Donovan was married to the former Dorothy Schaech for 57 years. Since 1955 they owned and managed the Valley Country Club [9] in Towson, Maryland. Although he was the owner, Donovan was known for doing menial labor at the club to include painting and working in the kitchen washing pots and pans. [3]

Death and legacy

Donovan died August 4, 2013, at Stella Maris Hospice in Baltimore from a respiratory disease at age 89. [10] A funeral mass was held at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen in Baltimore, and he was buried in a private ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. [11] The Washington Post said of Donovan:

"With the death of Art Donovan this past week, sports lost one of its last genuine characters, in every sense of the word. A lot of guys try to get our attention. Donovan was that rare guy who didn't have to try. He was as good on the field – he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his second try - as he was off it. He appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and reduced both hosts and their audiences to howling in seconds. He was a player and a great storyteller and we'll never see another guy like him. That's sad for us, but it's a darn good epitaph."

Hamilton, Tracee, The Washington Post (August 11, 2013) [12]

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  1. Martin, Douglas (August 5, 2013). "Art Donovan, a Behemoth of Modesty, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  2. "Art Donovan, Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 88". Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 Schudel, Matt (August 7, 2013) "Colt a Hall of Famer on the field, a card off it" The Washington Post, page B6.
  4. "HALL OF FAME DT ART DONOVAN DEAD AT 89". AP. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  5. "Art Donovan, Uncensored, on Tonight Show, April 12, 1990". YouTube. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  6. "Art Donovan on the Tonight Show". YouTube. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  7. McNeill, Pat (2002). The Tables All Were Broken: McNeill's Take on the End of Professional Wrestling. iUniverse. p. 278. ISBN   0-595-22404-0.
  8. 1 2 Simon, Harry (August 4, 2013). "Classic Induction: Art Donovan – Man of a Thousand Questions. And They Were All "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?"". WrestleCrap. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  9. "Valley Country Club – Weddings In Maryland".
  10. "Art Donovan, vocal ex-Colts defensive tackle, dies at 89". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  11. Klingaman, Mike (August 9, 2013) "Hundreds arrive for Art Donovan's Funeral at Cathedral of Mary our Queen" The Baltimore Sun.
  12. Hamilton, Tracee (August 11, 2013). "Donovan was the real deal, both on the field and off it". Washington Post . p. D2.[ dead link ]