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Thank You, Aaron

J.B. Long pens a heartfelt thank you to Aaron Donald, reliving some of his greatest moments and celebrating his lasting legacy.


Dear Aaron,

Congratulations. And thank you.

Even though I've braced for this moment, like all Rams fans I'm still reconciling the deflating truth – that we've watched you play your last down in the NFL – with abundant appreciation for the decade of dominance you gave us. It has been a privilege to watch you perfect your craft.

Thank you for playing your entire career with our franchise – a rarity, and a distinguishment that we'll all cherish.

While you could have walked away on top of the world after lifting the Lombardi Trophy, you gave us these two additional seasons.

That day at the parade rally in front of the Coliseum, I was cautioned not to ask about your future and fully intended to adhere to that guidance. But when Sean nudged and dared me, you were gracious enough to take it in stride and publicly commit to running it back. I remember the relief and elation that we all felt, knowing it wasn't over quite yet.

In the two years since, you allowed us to prepare for this inevitability, for the day when the franchise would have to let you get on with life. I can only hope that the additional runway served you just as well.

As brutal as the depths of 2022 were to endure, and even as you missed games due to injury for the only time in your career, in retrospect those grueling months served a valuable purpose. Rams football beyond Aaron Donald was always going to be challenging, because you spoiled us. But having glimpsed what it might be like moving forward, at least we know it can be inspiring and fulfilling and even victorious – though it will never be the same.

I've spoken to numerous folks who list 2023 as their favorite non-championship season. And if you must step away now, we're grateful for the torch that you passed to that record-setting rookie class. The only memory fonder than the one of you skipping off the field arm-in-arm with Kobie Turner is the one of you pointing to your ring finger in Super Bowl-winning celebration.

Swipe through the best photos of Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald's full career.

That Puka Nacua and Byron Young and Steve Avila and so many others will be able to say they played with Aaron Donald, learned from Aaron Donald, and witnessed how you modeled the way? Invaluable.

Even as you choose not to play on, the 2024 Rams will benefit from your influence. The legacy you leave in Los Angeles is both immediate and indefinite.

I was particularly glad for your additional seasons when Tom Brady retired. I've been secretly celebrating the distance created between his enshrinement and yours. Because as I see it, he was your only G.O.A.T. peer. And when you go into Canton as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the summer of 2029, you'll deservedly headline that class.

I've always admired how you turned pre-Draft question marks into career-defining exclamation points. The way you perfected your position will forever stand as a testament to your hard work paying off. My two boys often pretend to be Aaron Donald while tackling each other in the yard. I get to share with them that while your preternatural gifts were undeniable, it was your motivation and mentality that set you apart. You versus yesterday is the only way.

There's so much gratitude for the on-field memories, of course. For the three NFL Defensive Player of the Year seasons, and several of the other ones you deserved. For that Sunday in Santa Clara in 2018 – devastating the rival with four sacks, six tackles for loss, and a forced fumble that formulated the greatest individual defensive performance I've ever witnessed. For your lunging, record-setting sacks. For the double-and-triple-teams you commanded (and occasionally annihilated). For the championship-clinching spin cycles you put Jimmy Garoppolo and Joe Burrow through – and the many you subjected Russell Wilson to, as well.

As much as those indelible moments, I'm equally appreciative for the professionalism with which you treated me and so many of those within the organization. With a moment of eye contact and a simple nod or a soft-spoken humble answer to a question, the respect you gave inspired more employees than you realize. The standard you set helped us go about our business with a version of the intensity and passion that you deployed to handle yours.

And did we ever thrive on those beaming grins. Because when you were smiling, it meant all was right with the Rams.


But thank you just the same for your tears. I recall the disappointment and frustration of those final seconds in Green Bay, as you played through pain in the 2020 postseason. The tears of joy that spilled at SoFi Stadium 13 months later were enriched, knowing how much it meant to you and what you were willing to go through to achieve the ultimate team goal. Many fans cried with you on those occasions, and many are shedding tears again now as they learn of your decision.

We'll miss those deep emotional connections you offered the Ramily. But how could we begrudge you for prioritizing more of them with your family, instead?

Enjoy your health and your wealth. Here's to the amazing impact your foundation will have on generations to come. May your ambition and generosity be a blessing to Los Angeles, to Pittsburgh, and to every community and entity you choose to pour into next. We'll continue rooting for you in all your pursuits.

And please come back often – to SoFi Stadium, to the facility, to special events. Because there are years of gratitude and waves of celebration stored up for you within this city and this organization.

While your legendary performances can never be replaced, we know you'll be an invaluable ambassador as you join the fraternity of Rams Legends.

AD99 always, and forever one-of-one.



P.S. Please don't rush to file any paperwork. Why not put it off, at least until the holidays? Just in case the Rams start 10-1 next season. We know you'll be in shape…

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