Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald launched into a whirlwind week of national award ceremonies Monday night in Charlotte, N.C., winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on his father Archie's birthday.
The award, presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club, goes to the best defensive player in college football as determined by voting of the Football Writers Association of America.
“I can't explain it,” Donald said of his feelings. “Just joy, excitement. I am honored. And to take it home on your dad's birthday. That's great.
“He was telling me he was proud of me. I told him all that hard work paid off. All those 6 o'clock (in the morning) workouts paid off.”
Donald, a Penn Hills graduate, is the first Pitt player to win a national award since wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald won the Biletnikoff and Walter Camp awards in 2003. He is Pitt's first Nagurski winner.
Donald, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, won over four other finalists (all from top-10 teams): Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and Missouri end Michael Sam.
He will be in Houston on Wednesday for the Lombardi Award presentation and Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Thursday for the Outland and Bednarik ceremonies.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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