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Donald turns down New York invite for NFL Draft

| Friday, April 18, 2014, 12:48 p.m.

Pitt All-American Aaron Donald spent three weeks deciding how to respond to his invitation to the NFL Draft next month. He even prayed about it.

In the end, he thought it's best that he respectfully decline and stay home, his mother Anita Goggins said Friday. She said Donald, a projected first-round pick, will remain in Pittsburgh and spend the first day of the draft May 8 with his family.

“Aaron is so personal,” Goggins said. “He just didn't want to go and have all those cameras in his face.

“He thought about it. He received a letter from (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell. One minute he was going. The next minute he said, ‘I'm not going.'

“I told him to pray about it, just like when he wasn't sure if he wanted to leave (Pitt) after his junior year. Last Friday (April 11), he made his choice.”

Donald, among the most decorated players in Pitt football history, was the dominant defender in college football last season, winning several awards, including the four most prominent — Lombardi, Nagurski, Bednarik and Outland. He was a unanimous first-team All-American after averaging 2.2 tackles for loss per game.

After the season, he began attracting attention at the Senior Bowl, where he was named the game's best practice player. Then at the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.68-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds and bench pressed 225 pounds 35 times.

Donald, a graduate of Penn Hills, has limited his post-combine visits to three teams — the Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams and Steelers. A series of mock drafts have predicted he could go anywhere between No. 5 to the Oakland Raiders and No. 32 to the Seattle Seahawks, with the Chicago Bears a popular choice at No. 14.

“I just want him to go somewhere where they are going to take him and teach him and make him the best possible player he can be,” Goggins said.

Donald's Pitt teammate, quarterback Tom Savage, also was invited to the draft, but his agent, Neil Schwartz, said he has not decided whether he will attend. Savage has been projected as high as the Houston Texans' first pick in the second round, according to ESPN's Todd McShay.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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