‘The heart of a Bear’ Donovan leaves legacy in Lyndhurst

LYNDHURST – He never played a down of football, nor was on the field for an inning of baseball. He only bowled a few games, but was a key member of the bowling team.

But make no mistake about it. Campbell Donovan was a gigantic part of the athletic program at Lyndhurst High School for the past four years, as vital as the balls, bats, blocking sleds and batting cages.

Campbell Donovan graduated from Lyndhurst High last week and with it, he leaves a legacy of greatness as a team manager, athletic confidant and general all-around fixture.

“You don’t replace Campbell Donovan,” long time football coach Joe Castagnetti said. “He was just as important as anyone. His smile, his work ethic, his care for the program was unmatched. He bought in and I’m glad he stayed around. I’m glad he was a part of our lives.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to replace him,” head baseball coach Pat Auteri said. “He understands everything about baseball. It was like having another assistant coach. I love him and the kids all love him. No one epitomizes Lyndhurst sports more than Campbell Donovan. He bleeds blue and gold.”

Lyndhurst head football coach Rich Tuero introduced a special award this year at the team’s awards banquet.

“It’s called ‘The Heart of a Bear,’ and he’s the first one to get the award,” Tuero said. “We’re going to give out the award every year and name the award after Cam. We’re going to give it to the kid who bleeds blue and gold like Cam.”

Tuero nominated Donovan for the New York Giants’ “Heart of a Giant” award, but Donovan didn’t receive enough votes to receive the award. But Donovan now has an award in his hometown that will always remember his commitment to the school he loves.

Campbell Donovan was the team manager for the football team and the official scorer for the baseball team. He was an active member of the Lyndhurst bowling team, but saw limited action. It didn’t matter. Donovan was part of the team and gave it his all in whatever capacity he was in.

Donovan was born three months premature almost 18 years ago.

“He was one pound on the dot when he was born,” his father Jim Donovan said. “When my wife Maria was pregnant, the doctors told us that he didn’t have much of a shot. But Cam is a fighter.”
Young Campbell had “at least 10 surgeries before he was 11,” according to his father. It left him with some hearing loss and some troubles with his sight. He was classified as special education at an early age.

“I couldn’t keep up with my friends,” Campbell Donovan said. “I wasn’t athletically built, but I wanted to be part of the team.”

When Donovan enrolled at Lyndhurst High, he was approached by Castagnetti.

“Coach Castagnetti asked me if I wanted to be the manager,” Campbell Donovan said. “That was my second day of school. It was September 11, which was already a special day for me and my family. I kind of knew what my role was going to be, handing out water and stuff.”

At his first official practice with the football team, Campbell Donovan was greeted by a special person – none other than superstar quarterback Petey Guerriero, who would go on to become the  2015-2016 Observer Male Athlete of the Year and would later become a standout running back at Monmouth University.

Getting Guerriero’s handshake and seal of approval meant the world to Donovan. It showed that he belonged, that he was truly a part of the team.

“When Petey shook my hand and said hello, it meant everything,” Donovan said. “I built a good friendship with him. I knew how special he was. From the first snap, I knew he was something special. To me, it made me feel normal, because I knew how big of an athlete he was. I felt more welcomed.”

“He bought in and got to know everyone,” Castagnetti said. “He might have been a little nervous at first, but he really wanted to perform the role of being a manager. He helped the coaches out and in reality, he became like an assistant coach. He grew with the position and the kids loved having him around. At first, he was quiet and shy, but he gained a lot of self confidence.”

Tuero learned to count on Donovan for many things.
“He was a big part of our team,” Tuero said. “He was in charge of the water and the equipment. He took that role very seriously. I held him accountable for all of that and he handled it.”

Donovan liked the way he was treated by the coaches.
“Tuero always calls me one of his boys,” Donovan said. “He treats me like I’m one of his sons. He would run through a wall for us. We have a family type atmosphere here.”

Donovan joined the bowling team and was quickly a fixture on the junior varsity. Probably at a lot of other schools, Donovan could have bowled varsity right away, but Lyndhurst is a perennial contender for state and league championships.

“I was part of the bowling team,” Donovan said. “I eventually earned my varsity letter in bowling. That made me feel involved and made me feel like I was part of something special.”

In the spring, Donovan kept the book for the baseball team and had to make the tough calls on whether plays were hits or errors, even if his friends and classmates were involved.

“He’s old school when he does the book,” Auteri said. “He does the charts and gets us ready to go. When he comes to me and asks me about a play, saying, ‘What did you think of that?’ I usually let him make the call and generally he’s right on the money. He comes to talk to me about the opposing team and has a lot of information. He definitely does his homework.”

Donovan loved his role as an official scorer.
“I see the game from a different perspective,” Donovan said. “I’ve watched the game my whole life. Coach Auteri gave me the responsibility and I take it seriously. Sometimes, they just have to play the game. I let them focus on the game and not worry about anything else. I always asked Coach Auteri if it was a hit. I think I was fair.”

When the school’s awards ceremony was held recently, Campbell Donovan received four different scholarships. He received the Jim Guirland Scholarship for his dedicated work with the Special Angels Recreation Program for kids with disabilities; the Dan Gilmore Scholarship, the Lyndhurst Scholarship from the Ciarco Family for academics, citizenship and school spirit and the Michael Sabella Memorial Scholarship.

“I don’t think we can put it to words how proud I am of him,” Jim Donovan said. “I knew he was getting one (scholarship). I never expected four.”

When Donovan received his awards, the entire gymnasium stood and applauded, recognizing Donovan’s commitment to Lyndhurst.

“It put a tear in my eye,” Jim Donovan said. “The whole place was on their feet, a standing ovation for him. I was pretty overwhelmed.”

The kid who wasn’t given much of a chance to survive 18 years ago was receiving a standing ovation from his hometown.

“I had faith,” Jim Donovan said. “There were too many signs to say he was going to make it. But to be where he is today is part of a dream I had. And I think sports played a huge part in his life, a gigantic part. He loves sports. It’s amazing how much he knows about sports. It’s been a catalyst to everything in his life. I really think it saved him, the passion he has for sports and for these kids in Lyndhurst.”

Campbell Donovan now goes on to the next chapter of his incredible life. He will attend Montclair State University in the fall, hoping to major in sports journalism and broadcasting.

“It’s been an absolute privilege for me to wear the blue and gold,” Campbell Donovan said. “I can’t thank my teachers, the coaches, my athletic director (Jeff Radigan) enough. I’ve been a part of this great athletic program.”

Needless to say, Donovan will be sorely missed.

“It was never a question of whether he could handle everything,” Castagnetti said. “As he grew with the role, the role grew.”

“I keep telling him that we’re going to miss the crap out of him,” Tuero said. “I don’t think it’s going to hit me until he’s not here and we’re all asking, ‘Where’s Campbell?’”

Donovan knows he had a great run.

“I couldn’t have asked for four better years,” Campbell Donovan said. “It was the best.”




Lyndhurst High School graduate Campbell Donovan overcame some early childhood disabilities to become a valued member of the athletic program as a student manager and scorekeeper. Photo by Jim Hague



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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”