Aaron Donald has experienced an impressive rise to becoming one of the league’s most dominant players. The LA Rams star defensive tackle has become arguably the best talent on his side of the ball while holding a bright future. Before Donald got off on his NFL journey, he had a simple reason why he chose to wear No. 99.
Aaron Donald’s rise to stardom
It didn’t take long for Aaron Donald to immediately make an impact in the NFL after being selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Donald quickly rose the ranks as one of the game’s best players that have seen him garner numerous NFL feats and records. He has earned five First-team All-Pro selections, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, six Pro Bowl nods, an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
His career-high 20.5 sacks in the 2018 season are the most by a defensive tackle in a single campaign, while being second in franchise history behind Leonard Little (87.0) for career sacks.
The Pittsburgh product has more than surpassed the expectations of a first-round pick as he’s become arguably the best defensive player in the league. He has continued to rack up remarkable campaigns as he has reached double-digit sacks in five out of his first seven years.
Donald has an opportunity ahead to further carve out a Hall of Fame-caliber career over the next several years.
Why Aaron Donald wears No. 99
Through Aaron Donald’s first six-plus campaigns, he has garnered a strong reputation and image behind his No. 99 jersey with the Rams.
Donald has become a household name while fully embracing his number, as evident by his diamond-encrusted No. 99 chain he rocks around. However, his reasoning to go that route for his number came due to his former teammate Eugene Sims charging too much to get those digits, as he revealed at the LA Sports Awards back in March 2019.
“When I got to the Rams, 97 was taken and he was trying to charge me too much to get it. I’m just going to take a new number. I’ll go 99,” Donald said.
Donald rolled through his last couple of collegiate seasons at Pittsburgh wearing No. 97. He thought he could get his hands on that number with the Rams, but Sims, who changed to those digits the season before in 2013, kept it. Sims wound up sticking to that number into his retirement after the 2016 campaign.
Despite No. 97 becoming available, Donald has stuck firmly with No. 99 that has become one of the league’s highest-selling jerseys.
Bright future ahead
With the number situation well behind Aaron Donald, he has put together nothing short of a potential Hall of Fame-caliber career.
There is still plenty more than he will likely have to accomplish first before presenting a rock-solid case, but he is well on that path. The 29-year-old is playing at the top of his game as the clear-cut best defensive player in the league.
The Rams have secured him under a long-term contract on a six-year, $135 million extension that he inked in August 2018. Donald’s deal runs through the 2024 season, which LA will continue to build around him. His versatility to line up on any part of the defensive line further separates his status among his peers.
The future is bright with the Rams, with Donald anchoring their defense for the next several seasons.