Donald wins ACC Defensive Player of Year
Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who embarks next week on a four-day, three-city tour of award banquets, received a nice send-off Wednesday when he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
It's only fitting that Donald's honors are coming in a bunch, similar to his signature play of the season Sept. 21 against ACC Coastal Division champion Duke.
Late in the first quarter, Donald burst into the Blue Devils' backfield before center Matt Skura could get a firm hand on him. He wrapped both arms around quarterback Brandon Connette and running back Josh Snead — at the same time — for a loss of 4 yards.
At the time, Donald didn't recognize the amazing nature of the play. After all, it was just one of his 26 1⁄2 tackles for a loss, helping him lead the nation with an average of 2.2.
“You don't realize the things you do until you break down and watch the film,” he said. “It's exciting to see things like that.”
Donald, who is expected to be the first Pitt player in three years drafted by the NFL, received 44 of 65 votes from the ACC Sports Media Association. His closest competition was Wake Forest nose tackle Nikita Whitlock (10 votes).
Donald also was third in the ACC Player of the Year balloting with four votes, behind Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (47) and Boston College running back Andre Williams (13).
He said rewards are “an honor and a blessing,” but he said he still has a lot of work to do.
“I will keep trying to work on my game,” he said.
Donald stayed productive despite being the target of numerous double-team blocks this season.
“It's part of the game,” he said. “I just have to be able to be better and become a better ballplayer.”
Donald, a Penn Hills graduate whose only other scholarship offers came from Rutgers, Akron and Toledo, said he has heard from several friends eager to congratulate him for his dominant season. One of those is his high school line coach, Demond Gibson, who also played at Pitt.
“He helped to form me as the player I am today,” Donald said.
At Georgia Tech, he totaled 11 tackles, six for a loss, including a sack. He also forced two fumbles. Three weeks later at Syracuse, he blocked an extra point in a one-point Pitt victory and recorded nine tackles, 3 1⁄2 for a loss, along with two quarterback hurries.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst has been impressed with Donald's consistency, which included 10 sacks in 12 games, fourth in the ACC.
“It's great to be able to talk about him,” said Chryst, who seldom singles out his players for praise. “He still keeps putting it out there.”
Chryst has been a player or a coach on the professional and collegiate levels for nearly 30 years, but he said he hasn't seen anyone more dominant than Donald.
“He is playing at as high a level as anyone I've been around, and I've been around some good ones.”
Donald is a finalist for four national awards that target defensive players and linemen. He will be in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday for the Nagurski, Houston on Wednesday for the Lombardi and Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Dec. 12 for the Outland and Bednarik awards.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt adds quarterback recruit from Cincinnati
- Pitt women’s basketball team excited for future
- Firm compiling list of candidates for Pitt AD position
- Pitt heavily vested in linebackers’ progress
- Spring practices get more physical under Narduzzi
- Pitt lands Upper St. Clair tackle
- Pitt lands basketball recruit
- Season offers many teaching points for Pitt
- Pitt women snap Chattanooga’s 25-game win streak in tourney opener
- Pitt women fall short in upset bid against No. 2 seed Tennessee