Happy Birthday Art Donovan: Football’s Fat Man

Football’s Fat Man
A Gridiron Survivor Remembers the Glory Days of Tough Guys and Grudges
By Art Donovan (People Magazine, 11/9/1987)

donovan“…The only thing I worried about was my weight. Coach Ewbank wanted me to play at 270, and it was tough to get down. The man was a royal pain about weight. I think he wanted a squad of 160-lb. guys out there. I would get a bonus if I played at 270, and whenever they weighed me, they would take me to a grain store and put me on the scales. Before the weigh-in I used to get into a hot whirlpool—we finally did get one—wearing a rubber suit, and I’d stay in there for hours. I could lose 12 lbs. that way. I’d do anything to make weight, even pop out my false teeth. I’d stand there like a baby—wet, naked and with no teeth.

My problem was I loved to eat. Still do. Both sides of my family had come from Ireland in the 19th century for the same reason: There was nothing to eat over there. Since then I’ve tried to make up for the potato famine by making the potato the only vegetable that passes these lips. I was one of the first people to really appreciate French cuisine—they invented french fries, didn’t they? For the past 45 years I haven’t eaten anything but kosher salami, kosher bologna, corned beef, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and, like I said, french fries, my concession to the vegetable family. Never steak—I don’t like anything you have to chew on. You can imagine that keeping the weight down was a problem. When I retired my teammates gave me two beautiful suits. I gained 20 lbs. in the next two weeks and never wore them. Now I guess I’m about 340.

I didn’t want to retire. The two saddest moments of my life were when my mother died and when I was told I couldn’t play football for the Colts anymore.”

Continue reading “Football’s Fat Man” at People Magazine.

Charm City Icon

By Ron Cassie (Frederick News-Post, 9/14/2007)


t Donovan was known as “Fatso.” But, he was a Hall of Fame player for the Baltimore Colts, not to mention a friendly cut-up. “I like people. What can I say,” he said. Photo by Skip Lawrence

At 83, conversation with Artie Donovan remains more like friendly sparring than talking. The Hall-of-Fame raconteur and Colt tackle is still quick with a line, a jab, a story and a belly laugh.

Last year, he saw me arrive early for our interview, sitting in my truck outside his country club and struggling to get my tape recorder to work. Instead of waiting, he drove over in his golf cart to pick me up and see “what the problem was.”

He steered, needling me for a few minutes about the faulty machine during the short ride to his home behind the club. We sat side-by-side in the cart, tossing questions and tales back and forth for an hour before moving to the patio.

Eventually, I got a tour inside his Valley Country Club mansion in Towson and the bar with all his memorabilia. There was a large black and white photo of a young, barrel-chested Donovan with Richard Nixon in the locker room after a game. A timeless picture with his late buddy, John Unitas, at the quarterback’s Golden Arm Lounge, having a beer and sharing a smile. And pictures of his father, Arthur Sr., the great boxing referee, and his grandfather, a middleweight champ who fought on the Union side in the Civil War.

“We do about 80 weddings a year here,” Donovan said of the family business. “And you know, someone will always ask if I’m around. So, I end up after the reception, waiting at the end of the bar like an old hooker, looking for someone to come up, say hello and buy me a drink.”

Continue reading “Charm City Icon” at Frederick News-Post.

Also: Wikipedia.org: Art Donovan

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