Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald's dominance noted at awards show


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A week of black-tie dinners and award shows have made one fact unquestionably clear: Pitt's Aaron Donald was the most dominant defensive player in college football this season.

Donald, a senior defensive tackle from Penn Hills, took home the Outland Trophy and Bednarik Award at ESPN's "College Football Awards" show Thursday night, giving him four major individual defensive trophies over the past week.

He previously had won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player) and Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker) earlier in the week.

"It means a lot," Donald said holding the Bednarik. "There's a lot of great competition, a lot of great defensive players in college. For people to believe that I'm that top dog, man, it just means a lot more."

To win the Outland (best offensive or defensive lineman), he beat out Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Baylor offensive tackle Cyril Richardson.

For the Bednarik (best defensive player), the other two finalists were linebackers C.J. Mosley of Alabama and Anthony Barr of UCLA, both of whom Donald beat out for other awards earlier in the week.

Donald led all of Division I-A with 26.5 tackles for loss this season, including 10 sacks.

He had five games with three or more tackles for loss on the season, and had six Nov. 2 against Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.

"It wasn't just one flash," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "He kept producing and word got out and I think he did it in big moments.

"I thought it was really neat to see the people really took note of what he did on the field. I thought he earned it the old fashioned way or the right way by what he did on the field."

Donald's haul of four major individual trophies this week are the most any Pitt player has won in one season. Running back Tony Dorsett and defensive end Hugh Green won three apiece in 1976 and 1980, respectively.

Of the four, Donald said he plans to bring the Lombardi, Outland and Bednarik home with him, but will give the Nagurski -- which he won on his father's birthday -- to his dad, Archie, as a birthday gift.

Before the show Thursday, his parents got to see Donald walk down a red carpet and sign autographs for young fans, and they were seated next to him.

"It's amazing," Donald said. "They've got to experience this all with me, got to enjoy the ride with me.

"They're probably more excited than me and I don't know how that's possible."

Donald credited his father with getting him up early in the morning when he was a child and helping him start working out and developing the work ethic that propels his dominance on the field.

"Like my dad always told me, if you put forth the effort, God will take care of the outcome," Donald said.

He joins former Pitt offensive lineman Mark May, who won the award in 1980, as the only Panthers to win the Outland Trophy.

Donald is also the first defensive player to win the award since Ndamukong Suh claimed it in 2009.

"It's exciting to bring it back to the defensive side," he said. "At the same time there are a lot of great finalists in the offensive linemen. I'm just honored to be able to take this home."

Donald is the first Pitt player to win the Bednarik, which has been awarded every year since 1995.

He was not invited as a finalist to the Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night in New York, but likely will garner some votes.

Usually not one to show much emotion, Donald had to hold back some tears as he talked about his clean sweep of awards week.

"It's just surreal," he said. "To really see all this hard work pay off, I don't want to tear up, but I'm just truly honored."

•••

Awards and honors this postseason for Pitt's Aaron Donald.

• Bronko Nagurski Trophy: Most outstanding defensive player.

• Lombardi Award: Best lineman or linebacker.

• Chuck Bednarik Award: Defensive player of the year.

• Outland Trophy: Best offensive or defensive interior lineman.

• Walter Camp first team All-American.

• Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year, first team All-ACC.

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


First Published December 12, 2013 8:26 PM

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