Art Donovan: Living the good life

Throughout the offseason, we'll catch up with former NFL players and coaches to find out what they have been up to since leaving the game.

At 83, Art Donovan might be the happiest octogenarian around.

He spends his days at the Valley Country Club in Baltimore talking with old friends about his playing days, his former liquor business, and how he almost became a teacher after retiring from the NFL. Donovan still cracks jokes and makes people laugh.

"I have been here in Baltimore for 53 years, and I plan on staying here until they run me out of town," said Donovan, a native New Yorker and Hall of Famer who played defensive tackle for the Colts from 1951-1960. Donovan was one of the best defensive tackles of all time. He was an All-NFL selection five straight years, from 1954-58.

Donovan played on a defensive line that helped lead the Colts to consecutive championships in 1958 and 1959. He also played in the 1958 championship game against the New York Giants, a contest considered one of the greatest in NFL history and symbolic of the inception of the modern NFL.

"I remember pulling Gino [Marchetti] aside during the game and said if we lose this game it would be an absolute travesty," Donovan said. "We ended up winning in overtime, but that was not even the most memorable win of my career. I remember our last home game of the 1958 season. We were down 27-3 at halftime to the 49ers and annihilated them in the second half, winning 37-27."

Donovan, also known for the levity he brought to the Baltimore Colts' locker room, loves to joke about his daily activities.

"Whenever there is a wedding at the country club, I shake the hand of the bride and groom and have a few drinks," Donovan said. He also attends meetings of retired NFL players and plays in charity golf tournaments, including a recent event hosted by former Packers great Paul Hornung.

Donovan refers to himself as "semiretired" and notes the irony of his celebrity status.

"Everywhere I go people say, 'Art, I had a beer with you.' If that were true, I would have drank every night of my life," Donovan said.

Donovan is anything but a complainer, choosing to put events into proper perspective. Asked about his beloved Colts moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, he is quick to respond.

"People say it was a tragedy and I tell them a tragedy is seeing children die from cancer on a daily basis," he said. "This is reality, franchises move over time."

Donovan is not jealous that players of his caliber today now earn millions of dollars. He still likes to boast that he earned $22,000 in his final season.

"That was good money back then," Donovan said.

As long as Donovan keeps speaking, his friends will keep laughing. He would not want it any other way.

William Bendetson is an intern for ESPN.com