Art Donovan, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts who died Sunday at 89, picked up a nice, little hobby in his 60s: going on late-night television and telling his football or Marine stories or giving his completely unfiltered takes on the current state of the NFL.
Donovan made 10 appearances on David Letterman’s show. "In my first appearance," Donovan told Sports Illustrated in 1986, "I was telling stories, and people were laughing, and everything was great. When we cut to a commercial, the guy says, 'Can you do another eight minutes?' I said, 'Hell, I can do eight months.'"
Here’s one of those appearances, a 1988 program around Christmas when he donned an elf hat:
Letterman asked him whether he had ever read his autobiography, “Fatso.” “I know all the stories, so why should I waste my time reading the book?” Donovan replied.
Donovan had practiced telling those stories on his teammates. A former teammate, Alex Sandusky, told The Baltimore Sun: "Dunnie had all of his stories numbered. Going to games, he'd sit in the last seat on the bus, the widest one. That was our 'story room.' Then he'd say, 'This is No. 46 coming up.'”
Donovan would frequently talk about being a heavy guy. "You know you're big when you sit in the bathtub and the water in the toilet rises," he said. Or there was the line he laid on Johnny Carson in a 1990 appearance: “I was 17 pounds when I was born. My mother couldn’t walk for three weeks.”
In that same appearance, Donovan lamented how improvements in facemasks had changed the game. “Now you can’t get your fingers in there anymore.”
Donovan’s popularity led to his memorably miscast appearance alongside Gorilla Monsoon and Randy “Macho Man” Savage on a WWE show:
And on local television in Baltimore, he would advise you whom to call if you needed to get rid of “cock-a-roaches”:
But that was Donovan, unpretentious and beloved by many.
"The world is not as bright tonight because we lost someone who could make us all smile.” We'll miss you Art. http://t.co/3MDGStd0uv— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 5, 2013
In fact, Donovan left at least one instruction for his wife about his funeral.
"If my wife don't send me off with a case of Schlitz in the coffin, I'm going to haunt her."