Aaron Donald Retires: His 5 Greatest Career Moments

The football world has been left reeling, as one of the most dominant defensive players of this generation, Aaron Donald, retires. The former player expressed that his career has come to an end in an announcement on X (formerly Twitter). “Cheers to what’s next- extending a big thank you to the Rams and all of the fans for your support over these last ten years- much love.” As fans reflect on the illustrious 10-year career before he retires, it’s impossible not to reminisce about some of the defining moments that solidified Aaron Donald’s legacy as a gridiron great. Here’s a look at five of those moments.

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The Draft Day Triumph

Aaron Donald’s journey to NFL stardom began with a bang on draft day in 2014. Following an exceptional college career, where he clinched both the Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Donald’s NFL Combine showing caught the attention of scouts and fans alike. His remarkable performance also shattered expectations. Moreover, he set a new record for the fastest 40-yard dash by a defensive tackle, clocking in at an impressive 4.68 seconds. 

This achievement surpassed Tank Johnson’s decade-long record, igniting fervent pre-draft speculation and excitement. Despite being projected as a top talent, however, many teams passed on the dynamic defensive tackle. Nonetheless, the St. Louis Rams (now the Los Angeles Rams) saw his potential and selected him with the 13th overall pick. This marked the beginning of Aaron Donald’s professional career. But more than that, it also served as a testament to his resilience and determination to prove his worth in the league.

Super Bowl LVI Victory

Aaron Donald’s relentless pursuit of excellence reached its pinnacle on the grandest stage of them all: Super Bowl LVI. In a highly anticipated showdown, and three years after their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, the Rams faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals. Importantly, Donald played a pivotal role in helping the Los Angeles Rams secure a spot in the championship game. Securing two sacks on Joe Burrow and tallying three quarterback hits, he pressured Burrow into an incomplete pass on fourth-and-one in the final minute. As a result, this effectively sealed the Vince Lombardi trophy for the Rams. In a moment of jubilation, Aaron Donald celebrated by pointing triumphantly to his ring finger. This now-iconic image is now forever etched in Super Bowl history and undoubtedly marks a pinnacle in his career before Aaron Donald retires.

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Three-Time NFL Defensive Player Of The Year

In Aaron Donald’s first three seasons, his supremacy was consistently acknowledged with three Pro Bowl selections and two First-Team All-Pro Honors. However, everything changed for the player in the 2017 season when he clinched his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Perhaps the most significant testament to Aaron Donald’s greatness is his unprecedented achievement of winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award two more times after that in 2018, and 2020. This remarkable feat cemented his status as one of the most dominant defensive players in NFL history. With his unmatched athleticism, relentless work ethic, and unrivaled passion for the game, Aaron Donald redefined the standards of defensive excellence.

Dominance In The Trenches

Throughout his career, Aaron Donald was known as a force to be reckoned with in the trenches. His ability to disrupt opposing offenses with his lightning-fast first step and technique was unparalleled. One of his most memorable displays of dominance came in a 2018 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, where he recorded four sacks and six quarterback hits in a single game. This performance evidently solidified his reputation as a nightmare for quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Fast forward two years later, Donald showcased his brilliance once again. He famously tallied four sacks against Washington, marking another standout performance in his career.

A Definitive Record Breaker

Aaron Donald deserves recognition as one of the most dominant interior lineman in NFL history. He showcased his unparalleled disruption capabilities during his standout season as a pass-rusher in 2018. It was in this remarkable campaign that Donald shattered the single-season sacks record for a defensive tackle. He reached an astonishing 18.5 sacks by Week 16 against the Arizona Cardinals. Finishing the season with a league-leading 20.5 sacks, Donald earned his second Defensive Player of the Year award. Also, with a career total of 111 sacks, Donald stands alongside just one other defensive tackle in NFL history to achieve triple-digit sacks, solidifying his place in the pantheon of defensive legends.

As Aaron Donald bids farewell to the gridiron, his five greatest career moments serve as a reminder of his extraordinary talent, dedication, and impact on the game of football. While his retirement leaves a void in the NFL landscape, his legacy as one of the all-time greats will continue to inspire future generations of players and fans alike.