St. Louis Rams select Pitt's Donald 13th overall
No one figured Aaron Donald's aura of toughness could disappear so quickly.
But that's what happened Thursday night after the St. Louis Rams used their first-round draft choice (13th overall) to make the Pitt All-American defensive tackle a very happy and — eventually — a very rich man.
Donald is the first Pitt player drafted in the first half of the first round since wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was taken third by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.
“I tried to hold the tears in, but I just melted,” said Donald, speaking to reporters at Savoy on Penn Avenue while holding his 1-year-old daughter Jaeda, his fiancee Jaelynn Blakey by their side. “It's just amazing that this dream came true. It's crazy, crazy.
“I'm an NFL football player. Something I've been dreaming about since I was 5.”
Donald said when Rams coach Jeff Fisher tried to call him as the team made the pick, the call dropped off his cell phone three times. All the while, Donald tried to remain calm, but he failed at that, too.
“Look at me. I'm drenched with sweat,” he said.
Fisher almost couldn't believe his good fortune.
“We were rubbing a lucky coin and he was there,” he said.
Said general manager Les Snead: “We were jacked he was there.”
When the news finally came across TVs behind the crowded Savoy bar, patrons reacted in much the same way, a loud cheer erupting from Donald's assembled family and friends.
The Rams were one of only three teams that invited Donald for a visit after the NFL Combine. They had the NFL's ninth-ranked run defense and were third in sacks (53) last season, but they believe Donald's quickness off the snap can make them even better. Donald recorded 281⁄2 tackles for a loss for Pitt last year.
“They are looking for another inside pass rusher and I can be that guy,” he said.
The Rams were not turned off by Donald's lack of ideal height and weight at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds.
“His game is not size; his game is speed, quickness,” Snead said.
Donald, 22, is the first Pitt player drafted since 2011 when the Panthers sent five to the NFL, led by wide receiver Jon Baldwin (first round, 26th pick, by the Kansas City Chiefs). He is the 25th Pitt first-round choice, dating to Chicago Bears tight end Mike Ditka in 1961.
Dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, Donald and his family arrived at Savoy in a black Range Rover, driven by close friend Chuckie Sanders.
“This is the second-most exciting day of my life,” he said, assuring everyone that Jaeda's birth was No. 1.
Savoy lacked only a red carpet. Friends and family of Pitt's highly decorated All-American stopped for several photo sessions before going inside to watch the proceedings in a private room.
Donald's mother, Anita Goggins, accompanied by his father, Archie Donald, claimed to be calm.
“I'm not nervous anymore,” she said. “Last night, my heart was beating so fast it woke me up.”
Donald said he didn't know when the Rams wanted him to fly to St. Louis, but he did say, “They want me soon.”He said he's looking forward to playing football again after weeks of workouts and hype.
“I have to start all over from scratch, earn respect, earn the trust, and I'm just ready to do it.
“I have a lot more work to do,” he said. “I want to be great.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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 senior Weatherspoon’s work ethic second to none
- Pitt coordinator House rebuilds defense with depth
- Seton-La Salle grad Orndoff excited about his role in Pitt offense
- Pitt notebook: Freshmen figure to play integral role again
- Johnson primed for second season at Pitt
- FSU star QB Winston working to improve on, off field
- Pitt’s ACC men’s basketball schedule announced
- Panthers ramp up respect quotient for Delaware
- Pitt assistant strength coach’s battle with cancer inspires players
- Pitt trying to keep star playmaker Boyd fresh for the season opener
- Pitt’s Conner to play as pass rusher on 3rd downs when not at running back