1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings Countdown: #42 Pat Donovan
The Dallas Cowboys raised a few eyebrows in 1968 when they drafted defensive lineman Blaine Nye out of Stanford and converted him over to the offensive side. Seven years later head coach Tom Landry tried the exact same tactic after the Cowboys selected Pat Donovan in the fourth round of the 1975 draft.
Donovan, who had never before played on offense during his playing career, initially resisted the position switch, pleading with the coaching staff to give him a chance on defense. Landry agreed to do so, but after a week of practices at training camp in Thousand Oaks, Donovan was moved to the offensive line for good.
The learning curve was a steep one for the 6-4, 250-pound rookie during a long stretch of two-a-days practices under the bright California sun. “From the beginning, everything was new for me,” Donovan recalled. “I had to learn the cadence, and the stance was completely different.”
He may have weebled at times. He may have wobbled at others. But never let it be said that Pat Donovan ever fell down on the job.
Despite the challenges inherent with the position change, Donovan quickly entrenched himself as a reserve tackle, moving past Rodney Wallace on the depth chart, and made the final roster at the conclusion of preseason. And in addition to his duties as reserve tackle, Donovan became a regular on the Cowboys’ kick-coverage units in 1975, joining a band of hard-hitting, scruff-faced rookies that became known around the league as “The Dirty Dozen.”
After Dallas clinched a Wild-Card playoff spot with a Week 13 victory over Washington, Donovan was awarded a spot start in place of the ailing Rayfield Wright for the regular season finale at the New York Jets. Donovan played well in cold, windy, miserable conditions at Shea Stadium, as the Cowboys notched their tenth victory of the season by a 31-21 margin.
Donovan’s most notable moment of the season came in the Divisional playoffs at Minnesota when he failed to control the ball after it caromed off the leg of punt-returner Cliff Harris during second quarter action. Donovan’s failed effort to gain possession led to a Minnesota recovery and an eventual Vikings touchdown that started the scoring.