Pitt DT Donald's rise worth the weight
One day about a decade ago, Archie Donald returned to his Penn Hills home before anyone expected him, especially his youngest son, Aaron.
“He was riding his bike,” Archie said. “He had chores to do at home. All he had to do was take out the garbage and sweep down the steps. I came home, and I caught him.
“I said, ‘Every time I ask you do something, you always give me a half-hearted effort,' ” Archie said, recalling their conversation.
Displeased, Archie came up with a plan. He decided it was time to introduce Aaron to the potential inside the weight room in their home.
Aaron, though, didn't consider his dad's order a punishment. Turns out he took to weightlifting so well that he has become arguably the strongest defensive lineman in college football and the best Pitt football player since Larry Fitzgerald.
Archie said he told his then-12-year-old son, “You will start seeing a change in your body that will carry over to everything you do.”
“And that's exactly what it did,” Archie said. “Once you look good, you feel good.”
No one felt better this week than Archie Donald and Aaron's mother, Anita Goggins. They accompanied their son to college football award presentations in Charlotte, N.C., Houston and Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where Aaron won the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik awards and the Outland Trophy. Other than Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh in 2009, no other player has won all four.
“They're probably more excited than me,” Aaron said, “and I don't know how that's possible.”
Said Anita: “It's just been a high you just can't come down (from).”
Archie said his son's journey started in the family weight room where he served as Aaron's lifting coach, rousing him out of bed at 4:45 a.m. so Aaron could finish his workout before school.
“My motto was, ‘While everyone else is sleeping, you're working,' ” Archie said.
Aaron Donald retained that work ethic through Penn Hills High School and his four-year Pitt career that concludes Dec. 26 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. Donald, who is scheduled to graduate in the spring with a degree in communications, won't stop there: He plans to spend the first months of the new year working with a personal trainer while getting ready for the NFL Draft.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Donald the fifth-best available defensive tackle and projects he will be picked in the second round. Pitt hasn't had a player selected since 2011, when five were taken.
Donald, who led the nation with 261⁄2 tackles for a loss, mostly has been unblockable by one lineman this season. Most teams that kept him under control did so with two blockers.
Archie Donald is not surprised.
“From the time he put on helmets and shoulder pads (at age 6), he could not be blocked,” he said.
Donald always was bigger than most children his age, so when he was 6, he was playing with 8-year-olds. At age 9, he was matched against 13- and 14-year-olds, his father said.
“All that did was make him better,” Archie said. “He held his own, and now it's paying dividends.”
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.
- For Pitt men’s basketball team, trouble in paradise
- Pitt football notebook: Panthers’ depth at RB, offensive line shows against Syracuse
- Pitt beats Syracuse, snaps 3-game losing streak
- Penn State wrestling gets best of Pitt again
- Pitt found opponent it had hoped for in Hawaii
- On senior day, Pitt not giving up the fight
- Pressure mounts on Pitt coach Chryst as 3rd season will soon end
- Murrysville native Hickey carves out fine career on O-line with Syracuse
- Pitt WR Boyd says only ‘select few’ Panthers willing to go all out
- Pitt turns its attention to possible bowl
- Pitt coach Dixon says finding right balance for schedule no easy task