On a night where professional football returned in a small stadium outside its most hallowed grounds, tears fell from the faces of the bronze bust statues aligning its gilded walls. Former Boston College defensive lineman and Hall of Fame member of the Baltimore Colts, Arthur Donovan, Jr., passed away at the age of 88.
Donovan was drafted in the 1947 National Football League draft in the 22nd round. A native of the Bronx, he played one semester of football at Notre Dame before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. Stationed in the Pacific Theatre, he fought at the Battles of Luzon and Iwo Jima. After returning home, Donovan played at Boston College from 1946-1949 as both an offensive and defensive lineman.
Joining the Baltimore Colts in 1950, the first incarnation folded and moved to New York in 1951 at the New York Yanks. The Yanks moved to Dallas in 1952 as the Texans before moving back to Maryland and once again becoming the Colts. While in Baltimore, he became one of the very best defensive linemen to ever play the game. In 1958, he helped the Colts to a win over the New York Giants in "The Greatest Game Ever Played," winning a second championship in 1959. In 1968, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Donovan was the son of Arthur Donovan, Sr., a highly-respected and critically acclaimed prize fight boxing referee. In 1989, he published the novel Fatso, and as the NFL became a high-priced, glittery world, Donovan became a throwback to an older era of the game. He famously proclaimed that the only gourmet food he ever ate was the French fry potato, and his tales of playing with Johnny Unitas, Alan Ameche, Gino Marchetti, and coach Weeb Ewbank became part of football lore. He spoke about throwing mud on offensive linemen while they were in the crouch, and he spoke of the ways teams lost weight in the overnight hours when word came down of a snap weight inspection. Listening to "Fatso" talk harkened back to the days when broken bones were light injuries, and the line between teammate and player blurred to a more family type atmosphere. It was a much dirtier era for the game in a sense that the players weren't worried about images or high-priced suits, but it's a time before the Super Bowl when caring about others stood out overall.
After his #70 was retired by the Colts, he went onto appear on The Late Show with David Letterman and as a guest commentator for the World Wrestling Federation's King of the Ring pay-per-view. He humorously ended up so out of place that he was ignored on the broadcast for practically the whole show, but he was so funny that Letterman wore a Donovan jersey as part of a commercial with Oprah during Super Bowl XLI.
Elected to the Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1970, he would later have his jersey retired at Alumni Stadium. Please join all of us in the Boston College community in bowing our heads in a prayer for a departed Eagle. Our prayers and condolences for a man who portrayed football when it was still football.