Art Donovan was a football player from the old school. He spent twelve years in the NFL, playing with and against some of the biggest names in league history.
Raised in the Bronx, Donovan earned his stripes for football from his World War II service in the Air Force. His first tour of NFL duty was with the 1950 Baltimore Colts, a team fresh out of the All-American Football Conference. Those Colts folded after a rotten 1950, in which Baltimore won only one game.
Donovan, along with running back Buddy Young, labored in obscurity for two other teams that went under: the New York Yanks (folding in 1951 after eight seasons) and the Dallas Texans (another one-win blunder). What Donovan remembers best of the 1952 Dallas Texans was not so much the lack of talent, but that they were stationed in Hershhey, Pennsylvania with four weeks to go.
Donovan got much better luck when the NFL tried Baltimore again in 1953. Carroll Rosenbloom owned that team and built it into the Colts franchise we know today. Now Donovan had talented teammates on both sides of the ball. The front four consisted of Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Don Joyce, and the late Eugene (Big Daddy) Lipscombe. Offensively, the Colts had Lenny Moore, Raymond Berry, Jim Parker, and the late Johnny Unitas. These were the anchors of the most storied Baltimore football teams ever.
The highlight of Colt success was undoubtedly the run of back-to-back championships in 1958 and 1959. Baltimore persevered in the 1958 NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium. Down 17-14, the line held on third-and-short, forcing the New York Giants to punt the ball. Unitas directed the two-minute drill to set up the tying field goal, and in the first-ever football overtime, Unitas led another march to the winning touchdown. Donovan fondly remembered the end of the game for (1) not picking up head coach Weeb Ewbank in victory and (2) the lack of beer in the locker room.
Since his retirement in 1961, Donovan has had many a story to tell, particularly to David Letterman. By his own admission, Donovan' stories are wild, and at the annual Colts' alumni gathering, his (and other veterans') stories get even wilder.
That's what happens to an old-school football player.