Whitey Dovell, the Kansas City Chiefs player personnel director who spent almost half of his 39 years in football as an assistant coach for the University of Maryland and the Baltimore Colts, died yesterday after a long bout with cancer.
A native of Newark, N.J., Dovell, 65, was an offensive and defensive lineman at Maryland before becoming an assistant coach there in 1952. He was a Terps coach for 15 years before starting a pro career in 1967 when Lou Saban left Maryland to become the head of the Denver Broncos and Dovell went with him.
His pro career, which spanned 24 years as a coach and a scout, included four years as offensive line coach of the Colts from 1975 to 1978.
"The first time I ever saw him, he had long white hair, a beard and boots. He was definitely a throwback. He reminded me of an old cowboy, a gun-toting type of guy who took no quarter and gave none," said Stan White, a linebacker with the Colts in the 1970s.
In Dovell's first year with the Colts under Ted Marchibroda, they made a remarkable turnaround from 2-12 to 10-4 and won the first of three straight division titles.
Carl Peterson, the president of the Chiefs, said: "Anybody who ever coached in the NFL knows he was one of the finest offensive-line coaches in the league. The championships that Ted Marchibroda won at Baltimore were directly related to a lot of the things he was able to do with the offensive line."
White said: "He took that offensive line and made them tough. It was a tough, miserable training camp [in 1975]. It was blood and guts on the field every day, but he turned that offensive line around and made the running game go."
White recalled affectionately that while Dovell was a "mean son of a gun," he was a players coach who was loved by his players.
Dovell, who spent five years with the Broncos and two with the Chicago Bears before joining the Colts, returned to Denver for two years in 1979-80 after leaving the Colts.
Dovell was out of football in 1981 after Dan Reeves fired Red Miller's staff when he became the Denver head coach. Dovell then spent four years in the United States Football League. After the USFL folded, he was a scout for the New England Patriots for two years before joining the Chiefs in 1987. He supervised their past four drafts, and his skill in evaluating players helped turn them into a playoff team.
Although he had been fighting cancer for the past two years, he wouldn't let it stop him from his job and was in the Chiefs' draft room in a wheelchair last month.
Dovell was hospitalized in Kansas City after the draft, and the Chiefs chartered a plane Saturday to fly him to his home in Shell Lake, Wis., where he died yesterday.
He is survived by his wife, Clare, and three children. The funeral will be Thursday.