I remember the first time I saw Aaron Donald. I was living in Alexandria, VA and thanks to the wonderful world of cable, I was able to tune into a Gateway-Penn Hills high school game. I was very excited to see Cam Saddler and Shayne Hale. There was an underclassman in that game that you couldn't take your eyes off of and that was Aaron Donald. He made sure you didn't miss him because he spent half of the night in the Gateway backfield.
Yesterday, he continued to make sure fans (and hopefully some award voters) can't take their eyes off of him. Donald made life a living hell for Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt and running back Jerome Smith. The big man wasn't done with that though, as he decided to add kicker Ryan Norton to the list too. #97's day ended up officially with nine tackles (eight of them solo), three-and-a-half tackles for loss, and one blocked extra point and yes, that is what came back to haunt the Orange in the 17-16 Panther victory.
Now, Donald's stat sheet claims no sacks for him, but I do believe that is up for debate. Unless I'm blind, he absolutely had at least one sack. Some of the tackles made by Donald just defied logic. Specifically, there was the one that has become my favorite...the old "taking on a blocker and at the same time reaching out to snag a running back and throwing him to the ground as if no one is even engaging him" tackle. The stat sheet also does not keep track of quarterback hurries, but let me put you at ease that he had more than his fair share yesterday.
I really do hope Aaron gets his due at the end of the year with a few awards. It would be a shame to see this season go down with just memories instead of a little hardware and maybe some All-American teams. More so, if Donald is not drafted by an NFL team...the NFL is doing it wrong. You just can't tell me he's six feet tall and therefore can't play...you just can't.
I'll end this "Panther of the Game" post with one plea to fans. I will be in New York City for the Thanksgiving holiday. I sold my tickets and therefore my seats in section 535 will be filled. I beg you. If you are in the area and you don't HAVE to be somewhere else on Black Friday, please go down to Heinz Field for your last chance to see Aaron Donald. He deserves it.