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The Journey of Aaron Donald: From High School to All-Pro

In a world where we are all currently worried about getting vaccinated, 31 NFL teams could only wish for a vaccination against Aaron Donald — the Los Angeles Rams’ 6-1, 280-pound reigning Defensive Player of the Year. As a team captain of the Rams, Donald has been destroying opposing offenses and coaches game plans for the past seven seasons.

Aaron Donald High School

As far back as Penn Hills High School, you could see greatness on the horizon. All the greats in any sport have that certain air and feel to them, at a young age. Aaron Donald was that, on the football field in his native Pittsburgh. When watching the dominant lineman, the superlatives flow like water rushing through Niagara Falls. With quick hands and feet, his rare speed, power and agility allows him to quickly get to the quarterback faster than a kid says trick or treat.

Off the field, the future Ram worked on his work ethic, with the guidance of his father Archie. The two would rise in the early mornings, for a near two-hour workout. This would lay the foundation for what the future would hold. In Donald’s final two years of high school, he would earn first team All-State Class AAAA. As a senior, he would record 11 sacks and 15 tackles for negative yards.

Also showing his value to the team, the growing superstar started at offensive guard. As decision time came, among teams such as Toledo, Akron and Rutgers, the 37th rated defensive tackle in the nation, would choose to stay in his hometown and play for the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Aaron Donald Pittsburgh Panthers

The freshman would move 11 miles across town, to the University of Pittsburgh. Although only a short trip from his childhood home, it was time to up his game to the next level. As a true freshman, Donald would see action in all 13 games and notch 11 tackles and two sacks.

Upon entering his sophomore campaign, the budding star would crack the starting lineup. This would be the season Big East teams would take notice, as Donald had 11 sacks and 47 tackles, including 16 for a loss. He would go on to earn second team All-Big East honors. As a junior, his tackles rose to 64, with over 18 for a loss, while recording 5.5 sacks, this time achieving first team All-Big East honors. In his senior season for Pittsburgh, the future first-round NFL Draft choice, would rack up 59 tackles, an astonishing 28.5 for a loss, while recording 11 sacks with four forced fumbles.

Aaron Donald would finish his last year in Pittsburgh, introducing himself to a new conference and taking home ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as being named a unanimous All-American. Further accolades included the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best college football interior lineman, the Lombardi Award, given annually to the best college football player, the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the best defensive player in college football.

Aaron Donald
Credit: Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Donald Drafted by Rams at No. 13

On May 8, 2014, the former Pittsburgh Panther all-world player would be selected by the Rams with the 13th overall selection. The son of Archie and Anita had made his rightful place to the NFL. Aaron Donald would go on to dominate the NFL over his first seven seasons like few rarely seen before him.

Again, collecting an ongoing list of awards, including the NFL 2010s All-Decade team, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, six-time first team All-Pro, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time Pro Bowl selection and 2018 NFL sacks leader. The only two remaining goals to accomplish on his resume include Super Bowl Champion and NFL MVP. It’s absolutely stunning to think the last defensive player to win the honor was Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

In the end, Aaron Donald will do as he always does — remain humble and go play ball.

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