Earning the highest individual honor bestowed upon an NFL defensive player is nice, but Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald has bigger goals in mind.
It's not that he doesn't appreciate the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award – he expressed gratitude during his video conference with reporters Sunday afternoon. He just wants the highest honor earned by an NFL team – a Super Bowl trophy – more.
"It's a blessing," Donald said. "I always say the same stuff, you know – anytime you're rewarded for the body of work you put in and people notice that, you'll be happy about that. You're accomplishing great things building to a legacy, but never satisfied. I know I still got a lot of work to do, a lot of room for improvement. The ultimate goal is to be holding that trophy up. That's what we're chasing, that's what I'm chasing, that's what I want to accomplish. And I until I accomplish that, I ain't going to be satisfied."
That body of work in 2020 – 13.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hits, 14 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery – led to a record-tying third AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award Saturday night for Donald, who joined Hall-of-Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor and current Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt as the only players to accomplish the feat. Donald edged Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt 27-20 in voting by the panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL.
Now, as he looks ahead to the 2021 season, Donald's pursuit of his preferred hardware will come under the direction of a new defensive coordinator.
The Rams agreed to terms with Raheem Morris to be their next defensive coordinator last month after Brandon Staley was hired as the Chargers head coach. Echoing Rams general manager Les Snead's comments toward the end of January, Donald expects the Rams defense to retain Staley's Vic Fangio-influenced scheme, with Morris adding his own twist to it.
"Overall, I feel like we're going to have similar things, but at the same time different things. So just learning a new scheme, trying to see how they want us to play certain stuff," Donald said. "I'm excited. I hear nothing but great things about (Morris), so I'm definitely pumped up to have that opportunity to work with him and have him be a part of that organization."
On an individual level, Donald is doing his part to ensure he maintains his high level of play that will help Los Angeles accomplish its Super Bowl goal. He said "it's right back to work tomorrow" after last week being the first week he took off from working out.
"I'm definitely getting older, I'm definitely feeling the aches and pains a little different," said Donald, who turns 30 in May. "I'm always going to work hard. For me, I can't slow down the way I work, the way I train. I've just got to make sure I take care of my body, do that much more to make sure that even if I do have a little bit of aches and pains through this offseason from training, I'm on top of it and taking care of it to the point where I won't let it linger. Doing everything I can to be in great shape, be prepared come gametime before football is back, but at the same time making sure I'm healthy enough so I won't be limited or slowed down by (anything)."
Fittingly, Donald accepted the 2020 AP Defensive Player of the Year Award inside SoFi Stadium, which will be hosting next year's Super Bowl.
When asked Sunday if he would be watching this year's Super Bowl – his video conference was held three-and-a-half hours before kickoff – Donald indicated a short viewing experience. "If ain't me playing in there and my team, I don't really care too much about it," he said.
He's much more focused on hoisting a different trophy in the same stadium next year.