The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

December 4, 2013

ACC-olades rolling in: Pitt’s Donald named league’s top defender

PITTSBURGH — Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the national leader in tackles for loss, has been selected the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Conference Sports Media Association (ACSMA).                                                          

This is the latest honor for Donald, who earlier this week was named first team All-ACC by ACSMA. The Pittsburgh native is also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston picked up two more individual awards from the ACC. The ACC selected Winston as both its overall and offensive player of the year, one day after he was picked as rookie of the year.

According to a press release from Pitt, Donald led the ACC Defensive Player of the Year balloting with 44 votes. Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock followed with 10, and Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner placed third with eight votes. Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis received two votes, while Florida State safety Terrence Brooks had one.

“There are some great defensive players in the ACC, so to be selected for this award is a tremendous honor,” Donald said. “I would like to thank my Pitt coaches and teammates because they share in this award. I’d also like to thank ACSMA for recognizing not only me but also Pitt with this honor.”  

The 6-foot, 285-pound Donald is the Panthers’ first conference player of the year since 2010, when end Jabaal Sheard, now of the Cleveland Browns, was named the Big East’s top defensive player.

One of the most disruptive players in the country, Donald leads the nation in tackles for loss (2.2 per game), while ranking 12th in forced fumbles (tied, 0.33 per game) and 16th in sacks (tied, 0.83 per game). Perhaps his most impressive statistic this season: of his 54 total tackles, nearly half have been behind the line of scrimmage (26.5).

A graduate of Penn Hills High School, Donald has 28.5 sacks for his collegiate career, the second most among active players and the highest total by an interior lineman.

Donald’s senior year production compares remarkably with former Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who swept the Lombardi, Outland, Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik awards in 2009 and was also a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Through 12 games, Donald has 26.5 TFLs and 10 sacks. Suh had 20.5 TFLs and 12 sacks in 14 games.

Donald will be attending three national awards functions next week.

On Monday, he will be in Charlotte, N.C., for the presentation of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player. Donald is one of five finalists for the honor, joining Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

On Wednesday, Donald will be in Houston for the Rotary Lombardi Award banquet, which honors college football’s top lineman or linebacker.

The other finalists are Mosley, Sam and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

On Dec. 12, Donald will attend ESPN’s The Home Depot College Football Awards telecast from the Dance Hall on the Disney Boardwalk in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Donald is a finalist for two awards that will be presented on the show: the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the college defensive player of the year, and Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best offensive or defensive interior lineman.

Donald is one of three finalists for each award. The other Bednarik finalists are Barr and Mosley. Donald’s competition for the Outland Trophy includes Texas A&M senior offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Baylor senior offensive guard Cyril Richardson.

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