“He was old school,” said Hilton, a defensive end on the Colts’ 1971 Super Bowl champions.”You just sat back and listened, and some of him was bound to rub off on you.
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In June, a number of old Colts threw a birthday party for Donovan at the Valley Country Club in Towson, which his family owns.
“Artie had the time of his life,” said White, a linebacker who’s now a radio color analyst for the Ravens. “He was telling stories to the very end, even though he had a hard time talking. His stories were who he was.”
Donovan’s side-splitting appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman” and other talk shows “helped bring the NFL to the casual fan,” said Joe Browne, senior adviser to league commissioner Roger Goodell. “He showed them a side of the game that they hadn’t seen.
“Art was a goodwill ambassador for the game, self-annointed or otherwise.”
Donovan’s persona resonated with fans like Richarad Hineline, of Glen Burnie, who attended the Mass wearing his No. 70 Colts jersey.
“I only met him once, at Mount Washington Tavern,” said Hineline, 50. “But he was one of us — a blue-collar guy, a person with real emotions, a Hall of Famer who never forgot his roots. I had to be part of the celebration of his life.”
In his homily, Madden said of Donovan, “Art was not perfect ... but while he walked this earth, he was consistently good.”
He also compared Donovan to Pope Francis, saying, “One of the toughest men to play a game, in an era ruled by tough men, endeared himself in the same way that Pope Francis has endeared himself to us — by his humility and humanity.
“Long after his football prowess recedes into the annals of the game and memories fade with each passing generation, we will fondly recall one of our greatest civic treasures,” said Madden, auxilliary bishop of Baltimore. “We will remember the stories and the gentle giant of a man, and surely will smile when we do.”