Former Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald, now a Los Angeles Rams standout, was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press on Saturday after posting an incredible fourth year in the league.
After accepting the award at the NFL Honors ceremony on Saturday, Donald discussed his time at Pitt and how it helped him develop into one of the NFL’s best:
That’s one of the main reasons why I’m here, because of Pitt. I had some great coaches that helped me to become the player I am, to build me to mold me (into) who I am and show me the way.
I’m glad to be able to have the opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh where I was born and raised and play for a great college that I dreamed about playing (for) all my life and be drafted to the St. Louis Rams, now the L.A. Rams.
So it’s been a good ride so far.
Despite the fact that he did not lead the league in key defensive categories like tackles, sacks or forced fumbles, Donald managed to make a difference week in and week out by breaking through the line and pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Donald recorded 91 total pressures and 66 hurries in the 2017 season, making him the most productive pass-rusher in the NFL. Donald also graded out at 99.7, per PFF, topping the league and falling 0.2 points shy of the best grade attainable.
Perhaps what’s most impressive is the fact that Donald matched his career high in sacks and more than doubled his career total in forced fumbles in a season abbreviated by a contract holdout that spilled over into September.
As things stand, Donald is set to make just under $6.9 million in 2018, but he should see his a significant bump in pay soon, as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.