Pittsburghs Aaron Donald has heard the talk that hes too small to play defensive tackle, especially at the big-time college football level. He continues to pay it no mind.
People always try to shoot you down, said Donald, who on Monday won the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Award, emblematic of the countrys top defensive player. Im just going out there to try to do what I do and help my team win games.
Despite being 6-foot-0 and 285 pounds, Donald was, as Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly phrased it, a one-man wrecking crew for the Panthers this season. The ACCs defensive player of the year, Donald leads the nation in tackles-for-loss (2.2 per game), is 13th in sacks (.83 per game) and is 10th in forced fumbles (.33 per game). His 28.5 career sacks are second on the countrys active list (ahead of players such as South Carolinas Jadeveon Clowney, who has 24.0).
Donald beat out four other nominees for the Nagurski Award at a banquet presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Westin Hotel: Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard and Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner.
Its an honor to be considered with those players, said Donald. But all my hard work paid off, the summer workouts, putting my heart and soul into this season.
The Panthers (6-6) will play Bowling Green (10-3) in the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26. Pitt played in the ACC for the first time this season, an experience Donald enjoyed.
It was exciting, really different (from the Big East), he said. There was a lot of fast-paced, spread offenses. Coming in they didnt know who I was and I was single-teamed. Toward the end they started double-teaming me, though.
Several other awards were presented:
Charlottes Mark Hogan, Catawbas L.J. McCray, Davidsons Jonathan Carkhuff, Gardner-Webbs Keon Williams, Johnson C. Smiths Darius Robinson and Wingates Mathu Gibson won local college scholarships.
Charlotte Christians Jeb Blazevich won the Michael Kahn Community Service/Scholastic Scholarship Award. Other high school awards went to Kings Mountains Mason Fleisher (student-athlete of the year), Monroe Parkwoods Grey Wyrick (comeback) and Charlotte Latins Carter Sheridan (defensive).
The Steele Creek Seahawks won the Pop Warner Little Panthers Defensive/Scholastic team of the year award.