Speed coach DeWayne Brown takes pride in training Aaron Donald on path to NFL stardom
When it comes to Aaron Donald, DeWayne Brown counts his blessings that the first player he trained who made it to the NFL has become one of the league’s best players.
Brown can relate to Donald’s drive, as he’s a self-made man who comes up with creative and sometimes unorthodox methods with his 2/10ths Speed and Agility training at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex indoor facility on the South Side.
Brown said he builds his workouts based on the movements of the athlete. Few can compare to the 6-foot, 285-pound defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, who visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.
“I train different,” said Donald, a former Pitt All-American who has trained with Brown since he was at Penn Hills. “I don’t train like a typical defensive lineman. Some of the stuff we’re doing, I’m training like a DB or a running back. We do a lot of footwork, and that helps me with my quickness and redirection. I’ve been working with him since my senior year of high school, and I’ve seen the impact he had right away so I stuck with him. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? …
“I’m with people who are pushing me to play my best.”
Donald said he contemplated declaring for the NFL Draft after his junior year at Pitt but determined he hadn’t been dominant enough. As a senior, Donald had 59 tackles, including 28½ tackles for loss, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles, was named an unanimous All-American and won the Bednarik and Lombardi awards and Nagurski and Outland trophies.
“When I first got him speed training, he didn’t like it,” Brown said. “When I trained him that summer before he won all the awards, he saw it and he came back to me.”
Now, Brown has Donald going through the same sprint and agility drills as Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead, from ladder drills for his footwork to plyometric jumps in grueling 45-minute sessions that go from station to station.
“Some guys look at the workout and say, ‘I ain’t trying to do that.’ When they come and get to doing it, they’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ ” Brown said. “Aaron says, ‘These dudes don’t want to be doing all the stuff you have me do.’ Even though it’s only 45 minutes, we hit the pace.”
Brown believes Donald is even faster since he ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2014, the best time ever recorded by a defensive lineman. Donald had an NFL-best 20½ sacks last season, so it’s possible.
“He sets the bar so high. He’s finishing first in anything,” Brown said. “When I get guys who see him train, they can’t believe he’s moving that fast. He’s got himself mentally to where he wants to go down as the best defensive lineman that ever played. And he wants to win a Super Bowl, first and foremost. He’s a two-time defensive player of the year, All-Pro and Pro Bowl, so that’s what he’s focused on.”
And Brown is training him different, to be different.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .