Nov 23, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) reacts while leaving the field following the game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh defeated Syracuse 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt Panthers: Aaron Donald cleans up in national college football awards

It’s still up in the air whether the Pitt Panthers football team will finish with a winning record in 2013, as their Dec. 26 date with Bowling Green at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will determine which side of .500 they fall on.

However, there’s no questioning the correct label to apply to senior defensive lineman Aaron Donald. He’s a winner.

Donald, a native of Penn Hills, collected four national awards over the past week, capped by winning the Outland and Bednarik trophies at ESPN’s college football awards show Thursday night in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Outland Trophy is given annually to the best interior lineman, offensive or defensive, in NCAA’s Division I football bowl subdivision; the Bednarik Award goes to the nation’s overall top defensive player. Both are voted on by various members of the college football media, as are the Nagurski (defensive player of the year) and Lombardi (defensive lineman) awards Donald claimed earlier in the week.

Donald, who led NCAA D-I with 26 1/2 tackles for loss and added 10 sacks and four forced fumbles, was an all-around dominant force this season. Since the Panthers (6-6) didn’t challenge for the ACC title in their first year in the conference, Donald had to build his reputation on performance alone, which he clearly had no trouble doing.

That he won two defensive player of the year awards while playing the less-than-glamorous position of interior lineman speaks to his oft-unstoppable combination of brute strength and polished technique. At exactly six feet tall, the 285-pound Donald couldn’t lean on a lengthy frame to intimidate opposing offenses – he had to work to get himself in the proper positions to wreak havoc.

Donald also took home the ACC defensive player of the year prize, and was named to a pair of all-America teams.

Fittingly, since Pitt’s bowl game is at Detroit’s Ford Field, Donald joins the Lions’ Ndamukong Suh as the only other player to win the Outland, Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski awards in a single season. Suh did it while controlling the line of scrimmage for the University of Nebraska in 2009.

On the day after Christmas, Donald will have a critical opportunity to show his in-game prowess for NFL scouts. Ford Field is usually Suh’s house, but he’ll have to rent it out to college football’s latest defensive king for one night.

Video courtesy of the Pitt athletic department.

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