The NFL lost a truly memorable figure Sunday night with the passing of Art Donovan.
Donovan’s franchise roots date back to 1950, his rookie year. That Colts team folded and he became a member of the New York Yanks in 1951 and the Dallas Texans in 1952 before that franchise moved to Baltimore and the Colts were reestablished in the league.
Donovan and the Colts had a permanent home, and he launched a career that led him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 (his second year of eligibility, the franchise’s first inclusion and the Hall’s sixth class of inductees ever).
Donovan played from 1953-61 and was a stout presence on a Colts defense that helped the franchise win consecutive world championships in 1958 and 1959.
The native New Yorker was a fighter at his position. Loved by teammates and respected by opponents, Donovan stands as the only Colts player to wear jersey number 70 – it was retired after he retired.
Donovan went on to earn wide post-career celebrity. He authored a book, ‘Fatso,’ that entertained readers and helped reveal even further one of the greatest personalities in any sport.
Donovan popped up frequently on late-night talkshows or commercials years after his career ended. Those were vehicles that cemented him in the minds of many who never saw him play.
In my 29 years with the franchise, the only Colts Hall of Famer I have not met is Ted Hendricks.
Meeting all of the others provided wonderful memories, whether it was dining with them or visiting them at post-career business interests.
I met Donovan in 1998, when the Colts returned to Baltimore for the first time. I called him to introduce myself and to see if he had some time to visit.
Donovan was to do a segment at a local TV station that Friday night before the game. When I asked him about meeting afterwards, he asked, “Why would I want to?”
Having known him only through the commercial persona, I just wanted to meet the man. All I could come up with was, “Just give me five minutes. I’ll come to the station. If it’s not good for you after five minutes, we’re done.”
After quick introductions, he invited me to sit in the cab of his truck so we could talk. We stayed there for an hour and a half. It was non-stop laughs.
During the chat he asked, “Kelley, are you right-handed or left-handed?” Not knowing what he meant by that, I went with the truth and told him I am a leftie. He responded, “Protestant?”
A couple of months after that, I was around Art for the last time, at the Super Bowl featuring Denver and Atlanta. The NFL had invited former Colts and Giants from the 1958 Championship game to conduct the coin toss.
I had chaperone duty for the group that included, among others, Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, Lenny Moore, Tom Landry and Don Maynard.
Our escort path to the field was very long, and Art labored all the way. Once on the field, we arranged a picture for the entire group, then one for the Colts and Giants individually. At the end, I asked for one with just the Colts, and I still have it in my office.
As the contingent waited for the coin toss, KISS was performing. The fire-enhanced performance of “Rock and Roll All Nite” was entertaining to the stadium crowd.
I glanced at Art and saw a look of chagrin. I leaned over and asked, “Is this what the NFL was in your era?” He only shook his head. I couldn’t understand exactly what he muttered, but it wasn’t song lyrics, nor did he stick out his tongue.
On the way back to the suite, I stayed with Art as the rest of the group moved quicker. He was on a cane, and it didn’t matter to me how much of the game I missed. I just wanted to help him at his own pace.
Through the years afterward, I never had much chance to speak with Art again. I tried for a Q&A a little more than a year ago, and his daughter told me he was a little frail.
I understood, but it would have been fun. He did see the questions involved and liked them, but we just couldn’t put it together.
Art passed away at age 88 Sunday in a Baltimore hospice facility just moments before kickoff of the Hall of Fame game.
A new season is underway without one of its Hall of Famers.
Like many, Donovan helped grow the game. He performed military service, even fighting on Iwo Jima.
It was a life well lived on many accounts.
Art, Rest in Peace.
Tags: Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, indianapolis colts, Lenny Moore, NFL, Raymond Berry
Posted in Colts Blog
Day Seven Impressions: The elusive tight ends, defensive line’s sack-packed afternoon and Antoine Bethea returnsPosted by on – 5:41 pm
The largest crowd (6,200) of the 2013 Colts training camp took in Sunday’s padded practice at Anderson University.
It was a bit of a quiet afternoon in terms of highlights for the Colts as the team returned to the practice field after being off since Friday morning.
Here are three takeaways from day seven…
Tight Ends constantly causing mismatches: Early on in practice, the Colts took part in one-on-one drills with linebackers having to cover running backs and/or tight ends.
It’s pretty impressive to watch Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener create separation in these drills.
When Allen and Fleener see linebackers across from them, their eyes should be nice and wide this fall.
Do safeties have the physicality to line up against the tight ends or should teams risk a slower linebacker to match-up for size purposes?
That will be a discussion in opponent’s defensive meeting rooms each week this year, one that doesn’t come with an easy answer.
Defensive line racks up the “sacks”: Yes, the red jerseys on the three Colts quarterbacks indicate a no-touching rule but on Sunday several plays were stopped due to “sacks”.
Drake Nevis and Josh Chapman were among the handful of Colts defensive linemen who got into the backfield on passing downs.
The defensive line was also able to get their hands on a few batted balls on Sunday.
It should be mentioned that the Colts offensive line (specifically the second unit) was without the services of guards Joe Reitz (stinger) and Hugh Thornton (ankle), along with center Khaled Holmes (ankle).
Nonetheless, it was a strong afternoon for the Colts defensive front.
Bethea back in Anderson: The Colts welcomed back safety Antoine Bethea after his fiancé gave birth to their first child, Siani, last week.
Sunday’s practice was Bethea’s first in pads this year and the eight-year veteran mentioned that he’s playing for a little bit more after becoming a father.
“It was definitely a feeling that I’ve never had before,” Bethea said of the birth of his daughter.
“My perspective is not just ‘Antoine’ any more. I’m out here doing this for my family.”
Tags: antoine bethea, Coby Fleener, drake nevis, dwayne allen, josh chapman
Posted in Colts Blog
The Colts will head back out to the practice field shortly to begin Week Two of training camp. For now, here are some headlines on young receiver Griff Whalen and new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
Each morning Colts.com will take a look at the top headlines surrounding the Indianapolis Colts from around the globe. What is the local and national media saying about the Colts?
Take a look below at the top pieces from Sunday, August 4th.
By: George Bremer, The Herald Bulletin
Griff Whalen has spent the better part of the last six years proving people wrong.
As a walk-on at Stanford, Whalen eventually earned a scholarship and became a frequent target for quarterback Andrew Luck.
“Yeah, Griffer,” Luck said after a recent practice. “He’s always surprised people. I remember (him) coming in as a freshman, as a walk-on, we thought (Stanford) had the best scout team in America because sort of throw the ball up to Griff and he would go run and catch it. He’s always surprised people. He ended up earning a scholarship. He’s just a good, solid, steady guy, and he’s working his butt off. So it’s good.”
Now Whalen is doing the same thing with the Colts and his head coach has taken notice.
“He is just a reliable guy,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “He studies his craft. He’s a gym rat. He’s here all the time. He’s working. He knows what to do. He doesn’t make mental mistakes. It’s going to be really hard to get rid of a guy like that. So he is going to make it hard on us to try to get rid of him. So he is doing a great job.”
By: Phil Richards, Indy Star
Ever since Pep Hamilton’s days at Howard University, the now Colts offensive coordinator has been a notch above everyone else.
“Mentally, he was way ahead of the game,” Howard coach Steve Wilson said of Pep Hamilton. “He ended up being the backup quarterback for two all-Americans most of his career, but he was probably the most influential person we had in our program.
“I actually started him coaching before he ended his playing career. I always asked for his opinion. He called a lot more plays than he would ever let on while he was on the playing squad.”
Hamilton did more than coach Walker in 1993. When Ted White, a hotshot schoolboy quarterback from Baton Rouge, La., made his official visit, Hamilton was his player-host. Hamilton successfully recruited the player who would consign him to the bench most of his junior and senior seasons.
Winning was all that mattered.
White became a black college football all-American who threw 92 touchdown passes, a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference career record that still stands. Hamilton was with him all the way.
“It was like having a coach on the field with me and having a coach in my ear,” said White, now Howard’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. “Every time I made a mistake, he knew what I did wrong. He was always a step ahead.
“He used to test me every night. He used to do drills to help me with protections.”
Tags: Andrew Luck, chuck pagano, Griff Whalen, Pep Hamilton
Posted in Colts Blog, COLTS DAILY HEADLINES