Aaron Donald said there's one reason to be excited about being named a Bednarik Award candidate.
"I just love the game, it's fun," Donald said. "I just love to hit somebody. This game is fun."
Donald earned this recognition, large in part to the type of numbers he's put up the last two seasons. He was named All-Big East each of the past two years, collecting 16.5 sacks and 34.5 TFLs during that span.
In 2012, Donald compiled 64 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He led the Big East and ranked 12th nationally with 1.54 TFLs per game.
Donald credited the Pitt coaching staff with helping him get this recognition, but also former teammate Jabaal Sheard, now of the Cleveland Browns.
"I got to be around Jabaal my freshman year, a lot," Donald said. "He used to take me in the film room, and I'd watch extra film with him. He taught me how to work."
Of course, Donald will be counted on heavily this season for leadership, on and off the field. In addition to himself, the Pitt defense returns three starters on the defensive line (Tyrone Ezell and Bryan Murphy the others), two starters at linebacker (Shane Gordon and Todd Thomas) and three starters in the secondary (K'Waun Williams, Lafayette Pitts, Jason Hendricks).
While he's naturally the impetus of a strong defense, in a reciprocal sense, he feels more confidence and the ability to replicate the kind of numbers he's had based on the supporting cast around him.
"We're just going to go out there and play football, that's all we can do," Donald added. "Everybody is putting in the hard work, putting the extra work in."
Todd Thomas commented that of all the players on the defense--in summer conditioning--it all starts with Donald.
"Aaron, as always, he's stepped up," Thomas said. "Aaron has stepped up as a senior leader. He's not a talker. He leads by working hard, and doing what you have to do. He doesn't say much. He just works hard; setting the tone, getting the freshmen right."
Donald, obviously agreed.
"I'm more of a 'watch what I do,'" Donald said. "I'm not a vocal guy."
Donald was initially a four-star prospect out of nearby Penn Hills High School, and ranked the No. 25 defensive tackle in the Class of 2010. He chose Pitt over offers from Rutgers and Toledo.