The Los Angeles Rams star pass-rusher Aaron Donald has recked havoc year in and year out ever since he broke into the NFL in 2014. Donald has been named a six-time All-Pro, three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner and the 2018 sack leader. But will this season be any different?
Donald is entering his age 30 season — a year in which many players start to begin their downward trajectory. However, Donald says he feels similar as the years prior.
“I feel the same," Donald said. "I feel good. Man, I feel strong. I feel like I look good. I feel explosive. If anything, I feel a little smarter out there, as far as understanding certain things to play a little faster. So, I feel good, man. It’s just the aches and pains at times last a little longer. So that’s it.”
Donald suffered a torn rib cartilage in the playoffs last season and still remained in a starting role. His grit has remained the same, mentioning the only thing that's changed is it takes longer to recover with more aches and pains along the way.
“Yeah, I might stub my toe — it ain’t gonna be gone the next day," Donald said, joking. "It might linger three, four days now. So, yeah, I feel all that."
In late July, coach Sean McVay was questioned about Donald now being 30 and McVay's assessment of his All-Pro defensive tackle showed zero signs of doubt that he'll be just as productive as previous seasons.
“He looks pretty damn good to me,” McVay said with a laugh regarding Donald's age. “He has got that same look in his eye. He looks good. He had a good first day. We know that he’s working hard. I think he’s going to pick up right where he left off and what he has done since I’ve been fortunate enough to be around him has been pretty spectacular. He is one-of-one.”
Donald will also enter the year with further motivation this season, he says. He and his wife Erica have welcomed their newborn baby Aaric to the world. The name represents he and his wife's name, using a combination of the two.
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“I’ve been getting good sleep,” Donald said. “I had my son, so I have a little bit more motivation this year. So, adding to the family, I’m excited and blessed about that.”
“That’s everything to me. That’s first,” Donald said. “That comes before anything – being able to be there for my kids, provide for my kids, having them in my life, being a real dad – not just be able to provide financially, but being in their lives to teach him good, bad, wrong, all types of things. So, I enjoy being a dad.”
Donald has already been the best non-quarterback in the NFL for arguably the last three seasons. With the statistics he’s recorded and personal achievements he's received throughout his seven-year career, Donald having extra motivation could mean he takes things up yet another notch.
Last season, Donald recorded 45 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, 13.5 sacks and 28 quarterback hits.
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Nick Cothrel is the Publisher of Ram Digest. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel.