Rams determined to turn Aaron Donald into a Super Bowl champ

Feb 8, 2022, 1:15 AM | Updated: 3:18 pm
Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald holds the George Halas trophy after the NFC Championship NFL footbal...

Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald holds the George Halas trophy after the NFC Championship NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. The Rams won 20-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Aaron Donald has won just about every award available to a defensive lineman during his spectacular eight-year career with the Los Angeles Rams.

As he points out, the only trophy he lacks has Vince Lombardi’s name on it.

“This is the only thing I’ve been chasing,” the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said Monday while the Rams began Super Bowl week at home.

At 30, Donald is still at the top of his formidable game, as his seven straight All-Pro selections attest. But he is also mature enough to understand that any Super Bowl could be the last for any player, even arguably the greatest defensive player of his generation.

An interesting thing has happened during the Rams’ run through the NFC playoffs: Donald’s teammates and coaches have adopted his final quest as one of their rallying cries. Even though Donald is far from a late-career veteran hoping to cash in one last chance at a championship, the sentiment is only growing stronger as Sunday approaches.

“This building wants to win for Aaron Donald, to create more for his legacy and what he’s done,” defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. “Our people in PR, community relations, the football office, the training room, the players, his brothers — we want to win for Aaron Donald.”

His singularly disruptive playing skills aside, the Rams’ respect and admiration for Donald off the field is obvious from their new goal.

Von Miller brought it up unprompted near the start of the Rams’ playoff run, saying it was important to the Super Bowl 50 MVP to help one of his few true defensive peers to get his own ring. Miller has repeated the sentiment in the ensuing weeks, saying the Rams talk about it in the locker room.

“Selfishly, I want to be the guy that helped Aaron Donald get a Super Bowl,” Miller said. “When he walks across the stage in Canton and says, ‘Man, when Von Miller came to the team, things changed,’ that’s what I do it for.”

Jalen Ramsey, the All-Pro cornerback and fellow cornerstone of LA’s defense, echoed the sentiment early on in the playoff push. Odell Beckham Jr. and several other Rams have brought it up since.

The Rams (15-5) naturally want to beat the Cincinnati Bengals because it’s the culmination of a half-decade of growth under coach Sean McVay. The coach’s arrival ended Donald’s three seasons as a good player on a bad team who was wondering if he needed to come up with an exit strategy from the Rams to realize his desire to win.

But the mild-mannered, approachable Donald has been playing long enough to gain the entire NFL’s respect, and to inspire a half-generation of players behind him.

“Words can’t express the way that feels, hearing that from your brothers, your teammates,” Donald said. “You’re doing everything in your power to help them to win, and for them to feel like they’re trying to help me accomplish something, that’s huge, man. It’s a blessing that my guys have got that much love for me to try to do that. It’s an accomplishment we can have that’s going to last for all eternity, that we ain’t never going to forget, and a bond that’s going to last forever.

“That tells you the type of brotherhood we have with this team. That’s why we’re at where we’re at today.”

When the Rams lost at Green Bay in the divisional playoff round last season, Donald caught the league’s attention with his naked emotion on the sideline. He was playing through torn cartilage in his ribs, and that pain combined with the finality of the loss brought him to tears.

Even Morris, who hadn’t joined the Rams yet, was moved by the televised images of the player he says “might be the best player that we’ve ever seen.”

“Looked into his eyes, and I felt that hurt,” Morris said. “I felt that pain. And when I got here, that was the first thing that I said to him: ‘I’m going to do everything in my power, everything possible, to help you win a championship.'”

The rest of the Rams are firmly behind the cause, and nearly everybody has a story about how Donald became a friend and a mentor. Rookies like linebacker Ernest Jones have become friends with Donald after being star-struck by him in OTAs just eight months ago.

It seems everybody is working to complete No. 99’s quest.

“The way that he goes about building his teammates up, bringing them with him, that’s the greatness in Aaron Donald,” McVay said. “When you have something bigger than yourself to play for and motivation that drives you, what a powerful thing that is. That’s what I think is great about this team, but guys like Aaron Donald are why you want to be able to do this.

“You can’t help but love this guy. I feel so grateful to work with him.”


More AP Super Bowl coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/super-bowl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons runs a drill during NFL football training camp Wedne...
Associated Press

Where’s Parsons? Opponents will be looking for Cowboys’ star

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Micah Parsons might not lobby for playing time in the preseason this month the way the Dallas linebacker did last year in one of the “Hard Knocks” highlights for the Dallas Cowboys. The reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year wants to be clear. Parsons still wants to play in preseason […]
17 hours ago
Portland Thorns midfielder Olivia Moultrie celebrates after scoring a penalty kick against the Hous...
Associated Press

Olivia Moultrie proud of stand she took to play in NWSL

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It’s been a little more than a year since Olivia Moultrie signed with the Portland Thorns after suing to join the National Women’s Soccer League at just 15 years old. For Moultrie, the lasting lesson of her legal odyssey is that women should have the same opportunities to reach the top […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Alex Palou, of Spain, waits in his pits during qualifications for an IndyCar auto race at In...
Associated Press

Column: Palou persevering through Ganassi contract chaos

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The conversation, if one could even call it that, might not have lasted even 10 seconds. It was more of an exchange between Chip Ganassi, who took a moment to congratulate Alex Palou, the driver he is suing because the IndyCar champion is trying to leave his team at the end […]
17 hours ago
Serena Williams, of the United States, returns the ball during a match with Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, of...
Associated Press

Serena Williams earns first win of season in Toronto

TORONTO (AP) — Serena Williams hadn’t won in so long, she said she couldn’t even remember the feeling. She picked up her first victory since the 2021 French Open on Monday, beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the women’s National Bank Open. “I’m just happy to get a win. It’s been a very long time, […]
17 hours ago
Kevin Harvick celebrates with his daughter Piper after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at t...
Associated Press

Harvick win complicates NASCAR playoff spots in final weeks

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — NASCAR just got more interesting down the stretch. Kevin Harvick won his first Cup race in nearly two years at Michigan International Speedway over the weekend — a result that could mean a driver who has a win getting knocked out of the playoffs. “It creates a big bubble,” Harvick said […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Baseball Hall of Famer and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dennis Eckersley applauds during pr...
Associated Press

Hall of Famer Eckersley to leave Red Sox booth after season

BOSTON (AP) — Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley said Monday that he will be leaving the Boston Red Sox broadcasts at the end of the season, his 50th in Major League Baseball. Eckersley, who was drafted by Cleveland as a California high schooler in 1972, went on to pitch 24 seasons as both a […]
2 days ago
Rams determined to turn Aaron Donald into a Super Bowl champ