Pittsburgh’s basking in awards afterglow

With all media attention he’s received this season, one might

believe that Pittsburgh senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald craves

his private time.

But that’s not the case, even though the history making Donald

gets recognized much more often around the city after a weeklong

awards tour that saw him pick a handful of some of the most

prestigious trophies in college football.

”Yeah, people know me a little bit more, but that’s all

right,” Donald said. ”It’s a good feeling. It’s just a good

feeling to be known, to see a kid come up to you with a big smile

on his face and say, `Are you Aaron Donald?’ I say, `Yeah,’ so just

to see the smile on that kid’s face is a good feeling.”

For those who know Donald best, his coaches and teammates, this

isn’t difficult to imagine.

”It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” Pitt defensive

coordinator Matt House said. ”He works so hard in practice and

worked so hard in the offseason, and he kind of willed himself to

have this happen to him. So, I’m super proud of him and super happy

for him. I think it was well-deserved, and he earned it.”

Donald said that even though some time has passed since he won

the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards and the Outland Trophy

it still hasn’t sunk in.

”It’s just surreal,” Donald said. ”I can’t explain it. It’s

just an honor and an amazing feeling, but I still have a lot of

work to do. So, I’m just going to try to become a better person on

and off the field.”

Maybe it would help if Donald actually was able to see the

awards at Pitt.

”They’re shipping them, so they should be here soon,” said

Donald, who was also named a first-team All-American earlier this

week.

”It’s been special,” second-year Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.

”What has happened is a very unique thing, and I’m very

appreciative to be part of it. It’s something that you don’t take

for granted. … I love the way that he’s handled it throughout the

whole process from start to finish this season, and he’s got one

more game as a Pitt Panther. And I’m looking forward to that.”

Donald and his teammates at Pitt (6-6) face MAC champion Bowling

Green (10-3) Dec. 26 in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl at Ford

Field in Detroit.

”It felt good to put those pads back on and get back into it,”

Donald said. ”So, my focus is to get ready for Bowling Green. …

I’m going to just take it all in and enjoy it. It’s my last time

I’m going to go out and play with my teammates. So, we just want to

go out there and have fun and come out with a win.”

The Panthers have finished the past three regular seasons with

6-6 records. They won their bowl game after 2011, but lost last

season.