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Colts great Art Donovan sees kindred spirit in Rex Ryan

NFL Hall of Famer Art Donovan earned a spot on the Rolodexes of Johnny Carson and David Letterman long after his playing days thanks to his always colorful, entertaining and at times outlandish stories.

No wonder he likes Rex Ryan so much.

"He's not like all these other coaches who are such -- where you don't know what they're saying," Donovan, 85, told Newsday in a telephone interview this week. "At least he comes out and says something. I get a kick out of him."

A prolific defensive tackle with the Baltimore Colts in 1950 and 1953-61, Donovan still lives in the Baltimore area and has owned a country club for decades. But he won't be rooting for the Colts Sunday. He dropped his allegiance when they moved out of town in the middle of the night in March 1984. Now he considers himself a Ravens fan.

Ryan spent 10 years on the Ravens' staff before he was hired by the Jets. But he didn't make much of an impact on Donovan. "I guess he didn't have too much to say when he was down here," Donovan said. "But he's sure making up for time up there in New York."

Oh, by the way . . . there's something else Donovan said he likes about Ryan.

His gut.

"I'll tell you one thing, he's fatter than I am!" Donovan said, laughing loudly into the phone. "We were watching the game, a couple of us, I said, 'Damn, he's going to blow up!"

At Wednesday's news conference at the Jets' practice facility in Florham Park, N.J., Ryan poked fun at a story in the New York Post about his weight. "I'm feeling a little faint. I only had 6,000 of the 7,000 calories I normally eat, so bear with me."

Donovan, meanwhile, said his own weight reached about 320 pounds at his heaviest. But now he said he is back below 275, which was his playing weight some 50 years ago.

Speaking of his playing days, Donovan revealed he lied about his age when he broke into professional football and it stuck. Having spent four years in the military before college, Donovan wanted to get back some lost time. So he did, and the Hall of Fame still thinks he's 84, when actually he' 85.

"I was born June the fifth, 1924, but if you see all the books or programs where I was listed, it says I was born in 1925," he said. "I just told everybody I was born in '25. But my birth certificate says '24."

Public records back up Donovan's story that he was born in 1924.

"I was stealing a year from Weeb Ewbank," Donovan said. "That weasel would have cut me a year sooner if he knew I was 40."

Raised in the Bronx and schooled at Mount St. Michael, Donovan pointed out that he has Long Island ties. He remembered playing Chaminade in high school and spending summers in Long Beach. That was a long time ago, and he knows it.

"In 13 years in football, you know how many push-ups I did? Thirteen. One push-up a year," Donovan said. "All this -- doesn't make you a better football player. You have to know how to play the game."

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