Zach Thompson breaks down Aaron Donald’s ascension to the elite ranks of NFL superstardom.
Defensive tackle isn’t typically one of the most glamorous positions in the NFL, so for a defensive tackle to emerge as one of the most recognizable players in the league and be widely acknowledged as one of the most talented and skilled athletes at any position takes a truly transcendent talent. Donald has shown that kind of talent throughout his rise to NFL stardom and continues to be one of the most dominant forces in the league after leading his team to a championship.
Donald is the next NFL superstar to be featured in DraftKings’ collaboration (after Josh Allen earlier this year) with Metabilia to produce Membership NFTs for the game’s brightest rising stars. You can check out all the details at the bottom of this post, and be ready for the Founder drops coming up later this month.
Donald comes from working-class roots and was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his father installed a gym in the family basement and made Donald get up early for workouts at a young age. Donald started on both the offensive and defensive line in high school and was considered a three-star recruit going into college. After getting multiple scholarship offers, Donald opted to attend Pittsburgh, where he played 52 games over his four-year career from 2010-2013. Donald had 11 tackles and two sacks as a freshman, but by the time he was a senior, he anchored a strong defensive unit and compiled 59 tackles, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and an impressive 28.5 tackles for loss in 13 games. He was a unanimous All-American and named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after that season, in addition to claiming the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy.
Donald was viewed as one of the top prospects coming into the 2014 NFL Draft. He cemented that status by setting the record for the fastest 40-yard dash ever run by a DT. However, since teams did not value the position as highly, Donald slid to the middle of the first round, where he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams at No. 13 overall. Donald would become one of the franchise’s cornerstones over the next several years and was the longest-tenured member of the team that would claim the Super Bowl Championship in 2022. Donald’s teammate for that Super Bowl run, Odell Beckham Jr., was taken just one pick ahead of Donald by the New York Giants.
Early in his career, Donald played well on mediocre Rams teams coached by Jeff Fisher. While the team was stuck around .500 and ultimately moved to Los Angeles, Donald was an immediate standout and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He was named to the Pro Bowl after his rookie season and has been selected to the Pro Bowl every year of his career. He was named first-team All-Pro after his second season and has made that prestigious team in each of his seven seasons since then. Also after his second season, Donald was selected by his fellow players into the top 15 of the NFL Top 100 Players list, and he has held a spot in the top 20 ever since, including four straight years in the top three and a selection as the No. 1 overall player in 2019.
After playing out the four years on his rookie contract, Donald held out prior to the 2016 season with the Rams exercising his fifth-year option. After missing the entire preseason, Donald reported the day before the season opener and passed a physical in time to be available. He did not play Week 1, but he still put together a great season, ultimately earning his first of back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year awards.
The following offseason, Donald again held out before signing a six-year, $135 million contract extension, with $87 million guaranteed, which made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. He repeated as Defensive Player of the Year and carried the Rams to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Patriots despite five tackles from Donald. It was after his career-best 59 tackles and 20.5 sacks that season that the players voted him the best player in the NFL.
The following season, Donald was beaten out for Defensive Player of the Year honors by the Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore, and the Rams lost seven of their final 13 games to finish out of the playoff hunt. In 2020, Donald earned back his title as Defensive Player of the Year, but the Rams lost to the Packers in the first round of the playoffs after an untimely injury to QB Jared Goff.
In 2021, Donald was already considered one of the best defensive players in NFL history, but he lacked championship pedigree. The Rams’ defense was still one of the best in the NFL, but the offense was missing a key component. That offseason, the Rams went all in and acquired veteran signal-caller Matthew Stafford from the Lions. With Stafford at the helm, Donald and the Rams went on a memorable playoff run, knocking off the Cardinals, Buccaneers and 49ers before meeting the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, which was held at the Rams’ home stadium in Los Angeles.
Donald starred throughout the championship game with numerous pressures, three QB hits, two sacks and four tackles. With just under one minute left in the game and the Bengals at about midfield, Donald made two of the biggest plays of the game in crunch time, stopping Samaje Perine on 3rd-and-1 and then wrapping up Joe Burrow on the ensuing fourth down play when the Bengals opted to go for it. His huge performance on the biggest stage cemented his legacy as one of the best defensive players of all time.
After getting his ring, Donald considered retirement, but he returned to the Rams for the 2022 season and is still a key part of Los Angeles’ defense as they look to defend their title. He agreed to a re-negotiated contract in the offseason, as well, adding $40 million over the final three years of his six-year, $135 million contract. The pay raise established Donald as the first ever non-QB to average more than $30 million per season.
Off the field, Donald started the Aaron Donald 99 Solutions Foundation, which is a foundation focused on providing Pittsburgh’s underprivileged youth necessary resources in a free, safe environment to enable them to improve and excel academically, socially and athletically.
Donald will continue to do his hard work in the trenches at an elite level, and this is a great chance to grab a piece of his journey with DraftKings and Metabilia’s unique Member NFTs. Learn more about the functionality and utility of the NFTs in the FAQ below. You can take this opportunity to grab a piece of his journey with DraftKings and Metabilia’s unique Member NFTs. Learn more about the functionality and utility of the NFTs in the FAQ below.
We will be issuing Aaron Donald Founders Class NFTs on DraftKings Marketplace at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 29, 2022.
Black – 30
Platinum – 100
Green – 200
Black – $1000
Platinum – $100
Green – $60
Drop Start Times
Black – 9/29 @ 3PM ET
Platinum – 9/29 @ 4PM ET
Green – 9/29 @ 5PM ET
Ownership of an Athlete’s Metabilia Membership Pass qualifies users to receive airdropped event NFTs corresponding to the respective athlete throughout the year.
Users who hold Member NFTs at designated snapshot times will receive airdropped Event NFTs on DraftKings Marketplace. Separately, users will receive access to purchase unique game-used items and autographed memorabilia, as well as gated access to private Discord appearances available through Metabilia.io.
An Event NFT will commemorate a noteworthy event or occurrence in the Athlete’s career or life and celebrate the achievements of the Athlete. Holders of Green Member NFTs will be airdropped corresponding Green Event NFTs. The same rules apply to Platinum and Black Metabilia™ Members.
A One4One NFT is a non-fungible token that denotes ownership of a unique memorabilia item. This item may be game-used, autographed, or both. A holder of One4One™ NFTs at the snapshot date may claim the item, at which point the item will be shipped to the holder from Metabilia.
They are the first series of member NFTs issued for an athlete and have the smallest mint counts.
The Athlete may choose to issue additional series of Metabilia™ Member NFTs (Series I, Series II…). There will not be additional Founder Class Member NFTs released for each athlete.
For more information on Athlete Member NFTs, visit Metabilia.io. And don’t forget to check out the DraftKings Marketplace to obtain previously released membership passes from notable athletes like Josh Allen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and More!
Join the DraftKings Discord here for updates on upcoming, live and past drops.
The DraftKings Marketplace is currently only available in the United States and Canada.
You must be 18+* located in any of the 50 US states or Canada to buy and sell NFTs on DraftKings Marketplace.
*Must be 19+ in Alabama and Nebraska.
*Must be 21+ in Iowa, Louisiana and Massachusetts.
Additional requirements for accessing:
You must have a verified DraftKings account.
Searching for more information on the DraftKings Marketplace? Visit the DKNation info page.
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