Art Donovan

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Art Donovan
No. 49, 39, 70
Position:Defensive tackle
Personal information
Born:(1924-06-05)June 5, 1924
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died:August 4, 2013(2013-08-04) (aged 89)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:263 lb (119 kg)
Career information
High school:Mount Saint Michael Academy
(The Bronx, New York)
College:Boston College
NFL draft:1947 / Round: 22 / Pick: 204
Redrafted 1951, 4th round, 50th pick after termination of Colts franchise.
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Military career
AllegianceUnited States United States
Service/branchU.S. Marines seal U.S. Marine Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II
Player stats at PFR

Arthur James "Fatso" Donovan Jr. (June 5, 1924 – August 4, 2013), was an American professional football player who was a defensive tackle for three National Football League (NFL) teams, primarily the Baltimore Colts. He played college football for the Boston College Eagles. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

Early life[edit]

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.

DonovanHe 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[edit]

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. Players formerly on the Colts roster were dispersed throughout the league via the 1951 NFL draft, with Donovan redrafted by the Cleveland Browns with the last pick of the fourth round in January.

At the end of August, the Browns still held 40 players on their roster. Donovan, together with teammate Sisto Averno, were sent by the world champs to the weak sister of the league, the New York Yanks, apparently without receiving significant compensation.[2]

Donovan would spend the 1951 with the Yanks, 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.[3]

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.[4] The contest between the two teams took place on December 28, 1958, and ended in a 17–17 tie. Being 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.[4]

Post-playing career[edit]

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 Late Night with David Letterman, telling humorous stories about his old playing days and about other footballers he played with and against in his time. 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.[5] Donovan also made several appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9] He was joined by Gorilla Monsoon on play-by-play, who inadvertently referred to Donovan as "Art O'Donnell", and Randy Savage.[9]

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[10] in Towson, Maryland. Although he was the owner, Donovan was known for doing manual labor at the club to include painting and working in the kitchen washing pots and pans.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Donovan died August 4, 2013, at Stella Maris Hospice in Baltimore from a respiratory disease at age 89.[11] 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.[12] 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)[13]


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas (August 5, 2013). "Art Donovan, a Behemoth of Modesty, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  2. ^ "Averno, Donovan Sent by Browns to Weak Yankees," [Bowling Green, OH] Daily Sentinel-Tribune, Aug. 30, 1951, p. 11.
  3. ^ "Art Donovan, Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 88". Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Schudel, Matt (August 7, 2013) "Colt a Hall of Famer on the field, a card off it" The Washington Post, page B6.[1]
  5. ^ "HALL OF FAME DT ART DONOVAN DEAD AT 89". AP. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  6. ^ "Art Donovan, Uncensored, on Tonight Show, April 12, 1990". YouTube. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  7. ^ "Art Donovan on the Tonight Show". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b 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.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Valley Country Club – Weddings In Maryland". Archived from the original on August 8, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  11. ^ "Art Donovan, vocal ex-Colts defensive tackle, dies at 89". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  12. ^ Klingaman, Mike (August 9, 2013) "Hundreds arrive for Art Donovan's Funeral at Cathedral of Mary our Queen" The Baltimore Sun.
  13. ^ Hamilton, Tracee (August 11, 2013). "Donovan was the real deal, both on the field and off it". The Washington Post. p. D2.[dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Arthur J. Donovan, Jr. and Bob Drury, Fatso: Football When Men Were Really Men. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1987.

External links[edit]