PITTSBURGH — Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle and two-time reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who is a Pitt alum, spends a good amount of time around the Pitt football facility.
Donald, who went to Penn Hills High School and still lives in the city during the offseason, spends most of his time away from his professional team at Pitt, working out with Pitt strength and conditioning coach Dave Andrews and private trainer DeWayne Brown.
Before arriving at the facility, he dutifully checks in with head coach Pat Narduzzi or assistant athletic director Chris LaSala to make sure that his training won’t interfere with what the coaching staff has planned for the current team.
Donald said on Saturday that he’s going to continue to call and check in, even after his record-setting, seven-figure donation to the program earlier in the week.
“I’m still going to check-in and make sure I’m good and see what times I can be here,” Donald said with a smile. “I just appreciate the love they give me.”
Donald didn’t play for Narduzzi and Andrews, but he’s forged a strong relationship with the current Pitt staff, which has helped build the bond that led to Pitt deciding to give Donald a locker room at the facility, and eventually led to his gift.
“I’ve know Duzz for years now and I’ve had the opportunity to build a relationship with him,” Donald said. “It was like open arms. I feel like I played for him for four years. I’m comfortable with him. I love the things he’s doing with this university and this team. I’m on board.”
Narduzzi said on Friday that Donald, who came to Pitt as a three-star recruit, is an example to his team of how hard work can pay off, and he’s been happy to have him around his program, regardless of the donation.
“You don’t do that because you’re looking for something,” Narduzzi said. “You do that because he’s a great person. … We treat him like he’s one of ours. He obviously is one of ours (as a university). I wish I would’ve been able to coach him. What an incredible person.”
Donald hopes that he’s not the last Pitt football player to stick around and become part of the fabric of the program going forward.
“I’m happy to be here in the city that I was born and raised in, at the great university where I played football and grew up watching,” he said. “To be here today, to have the opportunity to do certain things I did for the university, it’s a blessing. You never dream this big. You’ve always got big dreams, but this is past what I ever expected to have the opportunity. … You can’t really put it into words. It’s just a blessing.”