PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has a reputation for possessing a strong work ethic.
Way back in 2015, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin extolled Donald for that element of his game after noticing the defensive tackle at his Alma Mater's facility in Pittsburgh.
"I was in this past winter, it was a week after the Pro Bowl and I saw him in that parking lot every morning because he was coming over to get his work like he normally does at the University of Pittsburgh," Tomlin said then. "I saw him just about every morning in February when a lot of guys are on beaches and vacationing, this guy was getting out of his car at 6:30 in the morning to work out. That's not out of character based on the things that I know about him."
Now in his fourth pro season, Donald is no different. In five games, Donald has recorded 2.0 sacks, five tackles for loss, and 11 quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus has continued to name him its top graded interior defender week after week.
And while it's his on-field performance that's drawn accolades, Donald's work ethic remains what impresses coaches the most.
On Monday, L.A.head coach Sean McVay recalled a recent moment where, too, was struck by Donald's actions.
"He'd probably be embarrassed that I told you guys this, but I've always respected how good of a football player he is. You see on the tape, you watch he's a special talent. But, I think, when you see special players like him, the intrinsic motivation, the drive to prepare and understand the process and appreciation for that is just as important," McVay said on Monday.
"I was leaving on Thursday night around 9:30 pm or so 10 … and there was a car — his car was there. I went into the D-line room and he was in there studying tape and studying the way guys set on pass plays and things like that," the head coach continued. "I think that's a small example of when you have the talent and it also matches up with the motivation, the appreciation for the process, the preparation and approach — you get special players like him. He makes another huge impact on the game yesterday.
"Really, I can't say enough. I'm really more impressed with him the more that I'm around him because of things like that. And that's what you always hear when you're around those great players. Those guys set the standard — they prepare, they do it all the right way, then they've got the talent to match up with it."
So what did McVay say when he saw Donald?
"I said, 'Man, what are you doing?' He said studying his deal, doing his normal routine — which guys that have been around him, that's not a surprise," McVay said. "But as I get more familiar with Aaron and I think more than anything, you just walk away and say, 'I sure am glad that guy's on our team.'"
Check out the best photos from the Rams Week 6 win against the Jaguars.