Art Donovan Baltimore Colts & Dallas Texans (NFL) & New York Yanks (NFL) & Baltimore Colts (AAFC/NFL)
"We didn’t make much money, but we had a lot of fun … nothing but fun. Whoever thought that kids who enjoyed the game on all those sandlots would get to play the game on the pro level? That’s pretty special.”
Art Donovan, the son of a famous boxing referee of the same name, first played football at Mount St. Michael's High School in the Bronx. Somehow he was overlooked on the all-metropolitan prep team and, when he played college football at Boston College, the best Art could do was second-team All-New England.
But in the professional ranks, it was a different story for Art, whose World War II service stint so put off his college career that he was a 26-year old rookie when he joined the Baltimore Colts in 1950. The hapless Colts folded after one season, and Art moved to the New York Yanks in 1951, then played for the Dallas Texans in 1952.
In 1953, the well-traveled Donovan returned to Baltimore to play for the new Colts team and, as the Colts developed into a championship team, Donovan developed into one of the best defensive tackles in league history.
Artie was ready for stardom. Big, strong, fast and smart, Donovan was also one of the most popular players in the league. He was an All-NFL selection in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1958. In addition, he played in five straight Pro Bowls.
The Baltimore Colts' great title teams of 1958 and 1959 featured a terrific defensive line, with future Hall of Fame defensive end Gino Marchetti, Don Joyce, “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, and Donovan, who by then had become the complete player. He was equally adept at rushing the passer, reading keys, closing off the middle, and splitting double team blocks. He had the reputation of being almost impossible to trap.
As great of a contributor as he was on the field, many feel he was at least as valuable to the Colts as a morale builder with his sharp wit and contagious laughter. The first Colts player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Donovan played 12 seasons in the NFL.