The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

The Art of Defense

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Who was the first Baltimore Colts player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? You might say Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore or even Gino Marchetti. You'd be wrong each time.

You could win a lot of bar bets with this one, and your glass probably would stay filled for quite some time before someone finally came up with defensive tackle Art Donovan, drafted in the 22nd round in 1947. Donovan, however, served a stint in the military before joining the NFL in 1950 as a 26-year-old rookie.

After a distinguished career that included two championships, five Pro Bowl and four All-Pro selections, Donovan was enshrined in Canton in 1968. In 1958, Donovan earned one of the those championship rings when Baltimore beat the New York Giants in what's commonly called The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Donovan was a perfect fit for Baltimore, which had rugged players whom the working-class city embraced as family. Not only was Donovan an anchor along the interior of the Colts' defensive line, but he also was invaluable as an influence in the locker room. His wit and fiery persona were perhaps as much as part a part of Baltimore's success as Unitas's arm, Moore's legs or Berry's hands.

Donovan retired after the 1961 season and later wrote a biography entitled "Fatso." He made some guest appearances on "The Tonight Show" and also was a guest commentator for the World Wrestling Federation's King of the Ring pay-per-view in 1994 when it was in Baltimore.

That's an appropriately eclectic resume for one pro football's most colorful players and one of the best defensive draft picks of all-time.

By Gene Wang  |  April 10, 2009; 1:10 PM ET  | Category:  Draft , Gene Wang , Indianapolis Colts Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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