Pitt's Aaron Donald wins another major award


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ORLANDO, Fla. -- One more award ceremony, one more trophy for Aaron Donald to take back home to Pittsburgh Wednesday night.

Donald won the 2013 Lombardi Award as the nation's best lineman or linebacker Wednesday night at a ceremony in Houston, making him two-for-two on his awards week circuit so far.

He had previously won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Monday night in Charlotte.

"Everybody knows the Lombardi name; it holds so much," Donald said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "To be able to take the trophy home with his name, to be able to represent that, it's a blessing."

After the ceremony, Donald fielded a call from Pitt legend Hugh Green, who won the award in 1980, the only other Panther to do so.

Donald beat out Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr for this award. Sam and Mosley also were finalists for the Nagurski Trophy.

Donald said he knew he had a shot at the award heading into the night, but also knew the other three finalists were excellent football players.

"It's crazy," he said. "These guys are amazing football players, and it's been an honor just to meet these guys and be up for awards with them."

Donald's award tour wraps up tonight with the ESPN College Football Awards show at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, where he is up for the Outland Trophy (best offensive or defensive lineman) and the Bednarik Award (best defensive player).

"It's just amazing to see all that hard work paying off," he said. "That non-stop grind, it's paying off today. I'm honored to be up for awards and to take them home with me."

Donald also was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches of the Atlantic Coast Conference Wednesday with seven of the 14 votes. He won the same award as voted by the media last week.

As expected, Donald also made the coaches' all-ACC first team and was the only Panthers player to do so. He also made USA Today's All-American team Wednesday.

Donald led all of Division I-A in tackles for loss with 26.5. His 10.0 sacks were fourth-most in the ACC, and he ranks second among active players with 28.5 career sacks.

After tonight, he could end up with as many as four major national awards, more than Green had in 1980 when he took home the Lombardi, Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards.

The Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the best offensive or defensive interior lineman, but has not had a defensive winner since former Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The other finalists are Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Baylor offensive tackle Cyril Richardson.

Pitt offensive tackle Mark May won the Outland Trophy in 1980, a fact that is not lost on Donald, who has to walk past a replica of May's award in the Pitt practice facility every day.

The Bednarik Award never has been won by a Pitt player.Suh and former North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers are the only defensive linemen to take home the award. All the others have been defensive backs or linebackers, including 2012 winner, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. The other finalists this year are Mosley and Barr.

Given Donald's laid-back demeanor, he isn't going into tonight's ceremony with any expectations. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't enjoy taking home a trophy or two.

"I'm just going to keep trying to take it in," he said earlier in the week. "It's a blessing to be where I'm at today."

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG


First Published December 11, 2013 10:30 PM

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