Steelers’ Heyward ‘Proud’ of Aaron Donald

Donald makes first trip to Heinz Field as an opponent Sunday

Josh Rowntree
November 07, 2019 - 11:30 am
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) during practice at at The Grove.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Heyward has watched Aaron Donald for a long time. And, despite Donald being arguably the most disruptive defensive force in the NFL, Heyward seems most impressed by another facet of Donald’s life. 

“I admire the work he’s done here… in the Penn Hills area,” Heyward said. “That dude gives back to his community and, even though he’s in Los Angeles, he continues to come back. I’m just proud of the dude he is, the work he does and the player he’s become.”

Donald, most notably, made a record-breaking seven-figure donation to Pitt’s championship fund this summer, helping create the Aaron Donald Football Performance Center inside of Pitt’s practice facility on the South Side. 

It’s a facility Donald became familiar with when he played at Pitt from 2010 to 2013, winning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award, the Bronco Nagurski Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy in 2013. He was also a unanimous All-American that year after racking up 28.5 tackles for loss, eleven sacks and four forced fumbles. 

Once leaving Pittsburgh for St. Louis, and the Los Angeles, Donald’s career took off, as did his charitable initiatives. Donald hosts camps for local children and has a charity that assists disempowered and underprivileged children in the Pittsburgh-area, as well.

That is similar to Heyward’s charity, The Heyward House, which helps children suffering from serious medical conditions and helps other underprivileged children with vital resources, as well as experiences they may not normally have access to. 

“When it comes down to it, you want to make sure you leave that lasting legacy,” Heyward said. “Aaron’s doing that and I’m trying to do the same, as well.”

On the field, Heyward and Donald share some similarities. Both first-round picks, their time on the South Side overlapped for three years. It was a time in which Heyward was able to see Donald — just a three-star recruit from Penn Hills — become one of the nation’s most dominant defensive linemen. 

“I remember when he was back at Pitt,” Heyward said. “I knew he was a great player then and he’s a great player now… No one knew he would be on this tear. Every offensive lineman’s got to be on notice with him.”

Donald, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro, has five sacks and two forced fumbles this season. And the Rams have stacked their defense with highly regarded players around him, similar to the Steelers. 

“I know Aaron’s a great player and it’s nothing against him, but it’s Aaron, it’s (Michael) Brockers, it’s Clay Matthews, it’s (Dante) Fowler,” Heyward said. “All of those dudes are getting off and rushing the quarterback. Aaron does a great job of just being a locomotive. It starts and ends with him and everybody rides his wave.”

Hear more from Steelers defense end Cam Heyward below.