The NFL will never see a player like Aaron Donald again

By | March 19, 2024

It’s not often that the NFL loses a player who can credibly be claimed as “the greatest of all time,” but that’s what happened when future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald called it a career over the weekend.

His name carries with it a level of star power that few defensive linemen achieve over the course of an NFL career. Donald’s accolades speak loudly for him. A Rookie of the Year, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, 10 Pro Bowl selections, eight first-team All-Pro selections, 111 sacks and a Super Bowl ring to top it off is about as good a career if anyone else ask.

Seeing how those numbers came together showed that Donald was a unique talent for the entire generation. He took advantage of the moment in a final college season in which he won the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), Lombardi Award (lineman of the year) and the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Awards (both for best defensive player), and showed that he wasn’t just some great defensive prospect – he was something closer to an immortal being. Donald ran a 4.68-yard 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine at 285 pounds, making him one of the greatest athletes in a game filled with great athletes.

In his first year, he immediately showed the skill that allowed him to collect an absurd number of trophies and the superhero-level athleticism that made him one of the greatest athletes in the recorded history of the combined. Nine sacks and the remains of dismantled offensive lines were his First stepping into what would undoubtedly be a career destined for Canton.

Donald was so damn good that it’s hard for coaches to use his clips for aspiring defensive linemen who want to mold their game after him. There aren’t many people in the history of this planet who could move the way he did, but it sure was fun to watch. The wildest thing about Donald’s career was that even though he was smaller than the… stretched out For the majority of the offensive linemen he faced in college and the NFL, he was the one turning people around and ordering multiple 300-pounders to block him at once.

Even with that level of attention and punishment, Donald’s physical skills never really eroded. He was That guy every week, making extraterrestrial feats happen routinely. Just ask Russell Wilson, the quarterback Donald has the most sacks during his career (fifteen times!). Donald was constantly breaking up double teams and targeting one of the most athletic quarterbacks in an era where athleticism has become a prerequisite for the position.

By merely blocking this man, he was asking for a team’s quarterback to get hurt or run over in an unnecessarily embarrassing manner. Once Donald was hip to hip with a lineman trying to block him, the game was over.

And for the record, Donald was athletic enough (even in his later years) and could genuinely play on the edge and wreak havoc from that position. Remember when the Steelers drafted Donald as an outside linebacker during his draft and got laughed at for it? There is an alternate reality where Donald is a double-digit sacker from the defensive end position. He broke the barriers for what that kind of athleticism could do from anywhere on the defensive line.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Donald’s career was that he didn’t hide how damned it was at all crazy he was. Suppressing the urge to hurt other giant human beings was nothing that concerned him. From double-wielding Bengals helmets during a joint training camp practice as a video game character to testing the strength of Alex Smith’s surgically repaired leg, it was clear that Donald lived and died for the intense level of physicality required to be great are in the game. . That’s almost as important as the skills he honed and the talent he naturally possessed.

There are only a handful of players who can have such an impact on the game. From start to finish, he was consistently one of the great defensive players in this league.

It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that the NFL will never see a player like Donald again. College football has yet to reproduce the level of dominance that Donald showed in 2013. The NFL hasn’t had a defensive tackle in the league since 2014 that could be considered his peer. All the best comparisons for Donald’s career – Deacon Jones, Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White – are from years ago.

That’s a rare company to work in, and a career that should ultimately be cherished for what it was. Here’s another video for good measure as we say goodbye to the most fearsome defensive force of this era of football.

Greetings, 99. Take it easy on people who are retired.

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