Hall of Fame defensive tackle Art Donovan died Sunday, a day after Canton welcomed a new class of men who played the game.
He played for the Baltimore Colts, so both Baltimore and the Colts have strong connections to one of the greatest defensive linemen in league history.
“On a weekend when the NFL welcomed more players into the Hall of Fame, we lost one of its most significant enshrinees, Art Donovan,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a statement issued Monday by the team. “Art was the first Colts player to be inducted into the Hall, and his roots date back to the very start of the franchise. Art was a battle-tested veteran who stood among the giants in helping lead the Colts to their first two world championships. While many later knew Art as a colorful ambassador to the sport because of his personality, those who played alongside and against him attest to his grit and greatness.
“Art is a beloved figure to many and is the only player to wear number 70 in Colts history. His number is retired among Colts greats. Art truly is an unforgettable figure in our sport, and we extend our sympathies to his family.”
Donovan became perhaps better known in retirement than he was during his playing career. Colorful, humorous, and likeable, Donovan told great stories about playing pro football in the days before the NFL became a behemoth, bridging for today’s fans the gap between the modern game and the way things used to be.