PITTSBURGH — It’s been nearly 12 years since Aaron Donald graduated from Penn Hills, but as he prepares for his second Super Bowl appearance, Donald, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is still making an impact on his high school alma mater and on a new generation of Penn Hills players.
Junior Raion Strader sees it everyday: “you see his jersey up here, you just walk past and it’s just honestly, definitely the talk of the town.”
More than a decade ago, Donald left an impression on his teammates and on his Penn Hills coaches.
Coach Ron Graham remembers Donald’s work ethic and his desire to get better.
“(He’s a) high competitor, refused to be blocked, refuse(d) to lose. Real Lionheart,” Graham says, “but he really had a difference. He had that other factor.”
Graham isn’t one bit surprised by Donald’s NFL success. “He is one of those guys that when you see him in every plateau of his existence, in, like, athletics, he just excels. I expected him to be successful in probably every level that he went to. And I didn’t know when that would stop.”
Donald’s superstar career inspires Strader and his Penn Hills teammates. “You just looked up to him honestly because you hear everything like yeah, I want to get to the NFL,” Strader says. “I want to do all these things just like Aaron Donald. Makes you feel like you can be the next one. That honestly just keeps building up confidence and just makes you want to work harder. Honestly, it’s crazy. It’s like anything’s possible.”
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