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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | February 13, 2022

Aaron Donald's Pittsburgh career: College football stats, highlights, records

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Before Aaron Donald was a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Super Bowl participant, he was wrecking opposing quarterbacks and running backs in the Big East and ACC as a defensive lineman at Pittsburgh, where he compiled nearly 30 career sacks, more than 65 tackles for loss and received All-America honors.

Here's everything you need to know about Donald's college career.

The vitals on Aaron Donald

School: Pittsburgh
Position: Defensive lineman
Height: 6-0
Weight: 285 pounds
Years active: 2010-13

Here are Aaron Donald's career stats in college, including his solo tackles, assisted tackles, total tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, passes deflected and forced fumbles. Scroll to the right to view the complete stats.

Year Games solo tackles assisted tackles Total TFL sacks PD FF
2010 13 8 3 11 3.0 2.0 1 0
2011 13 22 25 47 16.0 11.0 4 1
2012 12 42 22 64 18.5 5.5 2 1
2013 13 43 16 59 28.5 11.0 3 4
Career 51 115 66 181 66.0 29.5 10 6

Where did Aaron Donald go to college?

Donald attended the University of Pittsburgh, which was a member of the Big East when he enrolled. He played at Pitt for four seasons and after a quiet freshman season in which he recorded 11 total tackles and two sacks, he exploded into a career arc as one of the best defensive players in the country — first in college and later the NFL.

Donald told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (an excerpt of which is shown below) in January 2010, "I just felt like I knew what school was the best fit for me, so I was ready to commit to it. I let my coaches know, and that was about it."

What kind of prospect was Aaron Donald in high school?

According to Donald's 247Sports recruiting profile, Donald was a three-star prospect who was ranked as the No. 353 recruit and No. 30 defensive tackle nationally. In high school, he played at Penn Hills (Penn.) High School. "When Penn Hills went on the road to beat Upper St. Clair in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last season, it was the defensive line — specifically, current Pitt player Aaron Donald — that deserved the credit," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Chris Adamski wrote the next fall.

In August of Donald's freshman year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise wrote that Donald "is making a name for himself," as he was "given a chance to play with the first-team defense against the first-team offense. On one play, he blew through the line and blasted tailback Ray Graham in the backfield for a loss."

What was Aaron Donald's record in college?

In Donald's 51 career games in college, Pitt went 26-25, including four consecutive appearances in a bowl game. Pitt's best record when Donald was on the team was in his freshman season, when the Panthers went 8-5 and won the BBVA Compass Bowl, a bowl game they played in during each of his first three years of college.

Statistical achievements by Aaron Donald

Here are some of the statistical achievements and records set by Donald:

  • 1st in Pittsburgh history in tackles for loss in a season: 28.5 (2013)
  • 1st in Pittsburgh history in tackles for loss per game in a season: 2.19 (2013)
  • 1st in Pittsburgh history in career tackles for loss: 66.0
  • T-1st in Pittsburgh history in tackles for loss in a game: Six (against Georgia Tech, 2013)
  • 4th in Pittsburgh history in career sacks: 29.5
  • 5th in FBS history in career tackles for loss: 66.0
  • T-8th in FBS history in tackles for loss in a season: 28.5
  • T-13th in FBS history in tackles for loss in a game: Six
  • T-15th in FBS history in tackles for loss per game in a season: 2.19

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What were some of Aaron Donald's best games in college?

Here are some of Donald's best performances of his college career:

Utah 26, Pittsburgh 14 | Oct. 15, 2011

As a sophomore, Donald's breakout game came in Pittsburgh's seventh game of the season against Utah. Albeit in a losing effort, Donald had nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, each of which were career highs at the time and five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and two sacks better than his previous career bests.

UConn 24, Pittsburgh 17 | Nov. 9, 2012

For the first time in his college career, Donald finished with double-digit tackles, as he logged seven solo tackles and six assisted tackles for 13 total — four more than his previous career high — while also recording two tackles for loss. He also deflected one pass in the game.

Georgia Tech 21, Pittsburgh 10 | Nov. 2, 2013

For the second time in his college career, Donald had at least 10 tackles in a game, as he finished with 11 against Georgia Tech, all of which, incredibly, were solo. He posted a career-high six tackles for loss in the game, which was tied for the most in program history and tied for 13th in FBS history, while also sacking the quarterback once and forcing two fumbles.

What awards did Aaron Donald win in college?

  • 2013 Bronco Nagurski Trophy winner
  • 2013 Chuck Bednarik Award winner
  • 2013 Outland Trophy winner
  • 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award winner
  • 2013 Athlon Sports National Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2013 CBSSports.com National Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2013 Lindy's Sports National Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2013 unanimous first-team All-American
  • 2013 ACC Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2013 All-ACC First Team
  • 2012 first-team All-Big East
  • 2011 second-team All-Big East

What did people say about Aaron Donald?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise, on Donald's college recruitment: "Generally a guy who is 270 pounds doesn't hear people say he is too small, but that's exactly what happened to Pitt sophomore defensive tackle Aaron Donald countless times in his junior and senior year of high school when he was hoping to be recruited by major colleges."

Zeise, continued: "Donald, 6 feet, 270 pounds, did have a couple offers from Mid-American Conference schools and was set to pick one, but Greg Gattuso, who was then Pitt's defensive line coach, saw film and convinced Dave Wannstedt to offer him a scholarship."

Then-Pitt coach Dave Wannnstedt, on Donald's play during camp his freshman season (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "Aaron Donald has been in the backfield more than any player on our defensive line all camp, and I'd be real curious to see if he can keep that up. He is off to a fast start."

Then-Pitt coach Todd Graham, in November 2011, on the future of Pitt's defensive line: "It is exciting, the power that Aaron Donald has, his potential is off the chart.

Graham, on Donald's development (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "He has gotten so much better technique-wise. He was very, very raw when we got here. He hadn't played much, but what makes him special is his explosive power. He has as much power as any guy I've even been around no matter what size. He is extremely powerful, strong and explosive and he is also talented and slippery and hard to block. And those are things we've tried to get him to understand — he has that explosive power. In the weight room he is very impressive, it is a gift, but the key is technique. And if he would decide that his technique is his No. 1 asset and master his craft, the sky is the limit."

Then-Pitt defensive line coach Paul Randolph, on Donald as a sophomore (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "Aaron has done about everything I've asked him to do. We wanted him to work on his fundamentals and as you can see now with his production. His fundamentals have gotten better and it shows up on game day. His work ethic and his mindset and his natural ability — he just makes plays."

Randolph, continued (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "When I look for guys to recruit i the future, I'm looking for guys like Aaron Donald with that first step, that explosiveness and, on top of that, the violence in him is what I really like."

Pitt linebacker Todd Thomas (from The Sentinel), on Donald as a senior: "Aaron Donald, he's a horse."

Then-Pitt coach Paul Chryst (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "Like I've said a number of times, if we're going to be good on defense, we need [Donald] to be good. I like putting that on him."

The Associated Press' Will Graves, in August 2013: "Senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald comes into his senior year with 16.5 sacks over the last two years. He begins his final season as an NFL-ready talent at the heart of a defense that will be tested by the speed of the ACC. Donald is the linchpin of a defense that finished near the top of the Big East in every major category."

NBCSports.com's Chris Huston, in November 2013: "If Manti Te'o can finish second [in the Heisman Trophy voting] last year, I don't see how the same (voters) cannot consider Aaron Donald."

(The Citizens' Voice | Nov. 28, 2013)

Aaron Donald quotes

Donald, on what college coaches told him in high school (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "They were all saying I was a bit undersized, that is pretty much what they told me. I was surprised to hear that, but it is what it is."

Donald, on his development as a sophomore (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "I just want to work hard and get stronger and faster and then work harder. The whole defensive line are good players, so [teams can't key on him] and we help each other. I'm still trying to work on getting to the run a little bit better but is [reading the backfield] better, that's all."

Donald, on Pitt needing to win two more games in 2012 to reach bowl eligibility (from The Daily American): "We're playing for these seniors, we're playing for the coaches, and we're playing for us as a team. So, it would be great to win these last two games to be bowl eligible and give these seniors a bowl to go out with. That's why we're working so hard this week. We still have a lot to accomplish this season."

Donald, after Pitt improved to 5-6 with one regular-season game remaining in 2012 (from the Sunday News): "We know what we have to do. We know how important it is to get to a bowl game. We don't care where it is. We just know we have to get there."

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