Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (20.5 sacks last season) is a bad man. But he’s a good guy.
Coming off a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year didn’t wallow in the defeat or let it derail his offseason plans.
Last month, he made a seven-figure donation to the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Football Championship Fund. A Steel City native who attended Pitt from 2010-13, 27-year-old Donald is the youngest seven-figure donor in the university’s history. His pledge will go toward “facility improvement, recruiting, technology and student-athlete development.”
Donald has brought his generosity with him to his adopted home city on the West Coast as well, having recently surprised a group of girls from Girls On The Run, a non-profit that encourages pre-teen girls to develop self respect and healthy lifestyles through running, with a shopping spree at a DICK’S Sporting Goods in L.A. as part of National Runners’ Month.
As part of the event, Donald, who has a six-year-old daughter and also a young son, took the time to tackle a six pack of questions from InsideHook about losing the Super Bowl, his offseason routine and the legacy he wants to leave.
Here’s what we learned from the five-time All Pro.
If you lose the Super Bowl, your daughter will be upset
“She was sad, honestly. She cried because she wanted to be on the field with the confetti and I had promised her that but we didn’t come through and we didn’t win. I let her down, but that’s just giving me extra motivation and pushing me harder to get back there. I have to keep that promise that she’d be on the field with the confetti with her dad celebrating.”
Even the NFL’s top defensive player has room to improve
“I’ve been grinding. I took three days off after the Super Bowl and then was back in the weight room. I’m just trying to get myself a little stronger, a little faster and have been training back and forth between Pittsburgh and LA. I’m gonna do some things outside of the box. We’ll do different things to try and get me going and make myself better so I can do a little bit more to help my team win.”
The best offseason motivation comes from within
“You want to win, you want to be great and you want to leave behind a legacy. Self-motivation is just second-nature to me. It’s just how I was raised and how I was born. A lot of people need somebody to push them or motivate ‘em, but my motivation is looking at my kids and knowing what I want to do and where I want to go. That makes it easier for me.”
The draft brings back memories — even if you don’t watch
“I watched a little of the first day, but not much. But I remember it like it was yesterday. You grind, you work, you dream about that moment of getting your name called on TV with your family … I was in those same shoes before. It’s a blessing for those guys starting their new careers in the National Football League.”
If you’re an NFL rookie, just keep doing your thing
“I got a lot of good advice, but I would say just not to change what you did to get you to the NFL. Just because it is the NFL, don’t let things get blown out of proportion. Football is just football at the end of the day. Continue to do what you’ve been doing that got you this far and try to get better. It’s always about getting better and letting yourself be comfortable. Trust the process. You are just going out there and playing football, the same sport you played as a kid, in high school, college … it’s still football. Don’t try to do too much and try to get yourself better.”
You get a lot from gifting your alma mater seven figures
“It was something that I talked about with the university in prior years and we were just waiting for the right moment to do it. To have that opportunity to do that for the future football players, and at the same time, they’re putting my name on a building, something that’s going to be there forever. You always dream about big stuff, but that’s not something I would have ever thought was possible. It’s also doing a great thing for a university that helped me get to where I am and doing a lot for these future athletes. At the same time, it’s leaving behind a legacy that’s going to be there forever. That’s a real thing for me.”