(Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Rams)
Talk of Fame Network
A year ago, defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the most decorated defensive player at the annual NFL scouting combine. He won the Lombardi, Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland Trophy awards and was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Still, scouts hedged on him, saying he lacked ideal size (he’s 6-feet-1. 285 pounds) for a defensive tackle.
So Donald went to the annual NFL scouting combine determined to prove he was the real deal … and he succeeded, acing the tests, drills and interviews and convincing St. Louis to take him with the 13th overall pick. Rams’ coach Jeff Fisher was so happy to find him there he predicted Donald would win go on to become the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he was right.
One year later, Donald told the Talk of Fame Network’s radio broadcast why he did what he had to do in Indianapolis.
“That’s an opportunity for guys to see how you are off the football field,” he said. “How you move and how you work. They want to see what type of work you put in to prepare for it. It was just going out there and staying comfortable and showing what I could do.”
Donald has rare speed and quickness for the position, but the knock on him was that he was too short to serve as a defensive tackle. So he lasted longer than he should have, with the Rams taking him with their second first-round choice. Result: His nine sacks led all rookies and were the most by any first-year player in three years, proving once again that size doesn’t matter.
“I think my height is an advantage to go against a guy 6-4, 6-5.6-6,” he said. “Alot of big guys don’t want to be that low against a guy 6-1. Just being that low, being that strong and using the quickness that I got – and (with) the height I got -- I think is an advantage I’ve got over other guys. I used it as just that.”
Donald was second on the Rams in sacks and never missed a game. Though the Rams finished last in their division and failed to reach .500, Donald pulled down 24 votes for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year – outpolling runner-up C.J. Mosley of the Baltimore Ravens, who had 18.
Donald plays in what generally is regarded as the league’s toughest division, and it is there, he said, you’ll find the toughest back to tackle.
“I played against a lot of good backs,” he said, “but Marshawn Lynch is a pretty tough guy to take down. He won’t let you take him down easily. It’s like trying to take down a whole house trying to tackle that guy. He just won’t go down. He fights for a bunch of yardage, and he won’t let him tackle you. It was a lot of work to make sure you get that guy down.”
Asked if he was surprised that Seattle chose not to give him the ball at the New England 1 in Super Bowl XLIX, Donald wouldn’t bite – playing the diplomatic card … which is playing it smart. He has to face Seattle twice each year, and, presumably, Lynch twice, too.
“Things happen,” he said of Super Bowl XLIX. “It was a good game, and they did what they did. And the Patriots came away with a good win.”