Art Donovan, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle who became known as much for his hilarious persona off the field as for his toughness on the field, has died at the age of 88.
Donovan died on Sunday of a respiratory ailment, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The original Baltimore Colts franchise drafted Donovan in 1950, and that team folded after his rookie season. He then signed with the New York Yanks in 1951. That team moved and changed its name to the Dallas Texans in 1952, and the team then moved again and became the Baltimore Colts in 1953. Donovan liked to joke that he was responsible for putting three teams out of business in his first three seasons.
But once he was established in Baltimore, Donovan became one of the best defensive players in the NFL. A member of the 1950s All-Decade Team, Donovan was a big, strong and powerful defensive tackle who was integral to the Colts’ back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1959. Donovan’s No. 70 jersey has been retired by the Colts.
The author of an autobiography titled Fatso, Donovan loved to joke about his weight, and his humorous anecdotes made him a popular talk show guest. In a 1986 interview with David Letterman, he explained his eating habits by saying, “Some people call it junk food. I call it gourmet food.”
Donovan weighed 275 pounds during his playing days, considered huge at the time, and talked about how much he struggled not to go over 275, which would result in a $2,000 fine. And although Donovan was always in good enough shape to play, he made no secret of the fact that he didn’t particularly enjoy offseason workouts.
“The only weight I ever lifted weighed 24 ounces. It was a Schlitz. I always replaced my fluids,” Donovan said.
They don’t make ’em like Art Donovan anymore. His presence in the football world will be missed.