CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Aaron Donald called it the perfect birthday present for his father.
The Pittsburgh senior defensive tackle won the Bronko Nagurski Award on Monday, an honor given to the nation’s top college defensive player.
The 6-foot, 285-pound Donald was presented the award at a ceremony in Charlotte.
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Donald averaged 2.2 tackles for
loss per game while ranking 10th in forced fumbles and 13th in sacks per game.
He had 28 1/2 sacks for his career with one game left to play, the Little Caesars Bowl, on Dec. 26.
“I’m just so excited,” Donald said. “I think it is a great way for my father to celebrate his birthday. And I think it’s huge for the University of Pittsburgh. There were so many people wishing me well.”
His father, Archie, turned 48 on Monday. He was in the audience Monday night to see his son accept the award.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly earlier this year called Donald a “one-man wrecking crew.”
Donald’s best game came against Georgia Tech when he had six tackles for a loss and 11 tackles overall. He also had two sacks against Virginia.
He also had nine tackles and 3 1/2 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries against Syracuse. He also blocked an extra-point kick which was the difference in a 17-16 Pitt victory.
“My mentality is to just go 100 miles per hour every play,” Donald said. “I went out there and did the job. We felt short a few times, but you can’t win them all. I think it is a great reward for all of the hard work I’ve put in.”