Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is a dominant piece of the Rams’ defense, which often doesn’t get the credit it deserves because of the team’s impressive offense led by QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley.
The Rams know how much Donald means on the defensive side of the ball because they signed him to a huge contract last summer. After learning something about Donald’s fitness regimen, we may have a better idea of just how he is able to play as well as he does for a team that made it to the Super Bowl last season and is looking for a return in February.
Aaron Donald’s dominance in the NFL
The then-St. Louis Rams drafted Donald 13th overall in 2014 after he racked up 29.5 career sacks in four seasons at Pitt. Since joining the NFL, Donald has had double-digit sacks in three of his five seasons. He led the league with a career-high 20.5 last season — falling just two sacks short of the Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5, set in 2001.
Donald also led the NFL with 25 tackles for a loss in 2018, the second time in his career he’s had more than 20 in a season. He has 59.5 sacks and 97 tackles for loss in his first five seasons in the league, with 263 tackles and 149 quarterback hits.
Donald was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, and he has been named the AP Defensive Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons.
Aaron Donald’s big-money contract
The big season Aaron Donald had in 2018 must have made the Rams happy because it helped justify the massive contract they signed him to just before the season began.
Donald signed a six-year contract worth $135 million, which included a $40 million signing bonus and nearly $87 million in guaranteed money total. The deal, which — if he plays it out — keeps him on the Rams through the 2024 season, pays Donald an average annual salary of $22.5 million, and gives him a potential out in 2022.
Ok great, but how much can he bench press?
What makes Aaron Donald such an impressive player on the gridiron? His strength, which was highlighted last summer. He wasn’t with the team during OTAs and minicamp, but he was working out back home in Pittsburgh.
The 6’1″, 280-pounder posted a video on his Instagram that showed him working out, and it went viral because it showed Donald bench-pressing 495 pounds, which he lightheartedly called “a lil weight” that he “was playn wit” in the accompanying caption.
He included #hardworkpaysoff in the caption, and it paid off to the tune of more than $130 million for him. In addition to the strength Donald displayed in that video, he is also one of the quicker defenders in the league.
What does the future hold?
At 28 years old, Donald is really just getting into the prime of his career. That is a scary thought for opposing teams, who know they’ll have to deal with him for years to come. So what can quarterbacks expect to deal with in the future when they face Donald?
How about improvement? Even though he is the back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year, Donald wants to get better — and he thinks he can. He feels like “there is a lot more room for improvement,” saying that he did things last year that he “could clean up to make myself that much better.”
He’s also hungry to get a win. After experiencing his first Super Bowl in a losing effort last season, Donald knows what it takes to get there, and he wants to get back to the big game — with a different result next time.
What gives him such motivation to want to win a Super Bowl? As he explained to Reuters, he promised his young daughter before Super Bowl LIII that she would be able to play in the confetti with him after the Rams win. Donald wants to keep that promise to his little girl since the confetti fell on the Patriots in February.