BY DALE GRDNIC
With all media attention he’s received this season, one might believe that Pittsburgh senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald craves his private time.
But that’s not the case, even though the history making Donald gets recognized much more often around the city after a weeklong awards tour that saw him pick a handful of some of the most prestigious trophies in college football.
“Yeah, people know me a little bit more, but that’s all right,” Donald said. “It’s a good feeling. It’s just a good feeling to be known, to see a kid come up to you with a big smile on his face and say, ‘Are you Aaron Donald?’ I say, ‘Yeah,’ so just to see the smile on that kid’s face is a good feeling.”
For those who know Donald best, his coaches and teammates, this isn’t difficult to imagine.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House said. “He works so hard in practice and worked so hard in the offseason, and he kind of willed himself to have this happen to him. So, I’m super proud of him and super happy for him. I think it was well-deserved, and he earned it.”
Donald said that even though some time has passed since he won the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards and the Outland Trophy it still hasn’t sunk in.
“It’s just surreal,” Donald said. “I can’t explain it. It’s just an honor and an amazing feeling, but I still have a lot of work to do. So, I’m just going to try to become a better person on and off the field.”
Maybe it would help if Donald actually was able to see the awards at Pitt.
“They’re shipping them, so they should be here soon,” said Donald, who was also named a first-team All-American earlier this week.
“It’s been special,” second-year Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “What has happened is a very unique thing, and I’m very appreciative to be part of it. It’s something that you don’t take for granted. ... I love the way that he’s handled it throughout the whole process from start to finish this season, and he’s got one more game as a Pitt Panther. And I’m looking forward to that.”
Donald and his teammates at Pitt (6-6) face MAC champion Bowling Green (10-3) Dec. 26 in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.
“It felt good to put those pads back on and get back into it,” Donald said. “So, my focus is to get ready for Bowling Green. ... I’m going to just take it all in and enjoy it. It’s my last time I’m going to go out and play with my teammates. So, we just want to go out there and have fun and come out with a win.”
The Panthers have finished the past three regular seasons with 6-6 records. They won their bowl game after 2011, but lost last season.