People in and around Pittsburgh already knew this, but Aaron Donald can play a little football.
The former Pitt Panther collected four national college football awards last month, in addition to being named to two all-America teams and taking home ACC defensive player of the year after a dominant senior season on the defensive line.
After leading Pitt to a victory in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Donald has taken his prodigious talents to Mobile, Ala., for the annual Senior Bowl showcase. Donald is part of Team North for Saturday’s exhibition, but he’s wasted no time in making positive impressions on the scouts and other NFL team representatives attending this week’s practice sessions.
Donald isn’t a lock to go in the first round of the NFL Draft, but according to insiders like NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, the 6-foot interior dynamo “has done everything he needed to do” to put himself in the conversation for teams selecting late on the draft’s first day.
Mayock compared Donald to Cincinnati all-pro Geno Atkins, a fourth-round pick who developed into a player opposing teams have to take into account when constructing a game plan. At 288 pounds, Donald may have to add a little more weight to maximize his potential in the NFL, but it’s clear he’s capable of stepping in and making plays right away at the pro level.
Team North coach Mike Smith called Donald one of his “most explosive” players even though he “doesn’t maybe have all the ‘measurables.’” Donald demonstrated his sheer power in a memorable moment this week, pancaking Baylor behemoth Cyril Richardson during a drill; at 6-5 and 240 pounds, Richardson is considered one of the top offensive guards available this year.
A strong showing this week just continues what has been a sterling past few months for Donald, who led NCAA Division I with 26 1/2 tackles for loss and also contributed 10 sacks and four forced fumbles.