Pitt's Aaron Donald is winner of Bronko Nagurski Award

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Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald has won the Bronko Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive player.

Donald (6-foot, 285 pounds) was a deserving winner. He leads the nation in tackles for loss with 26.5, and is trying to become the first interior lineman to lead FBS players in that category since the stat was instituted in 2000. Donald also is tied for 13th nationally with 10 sacks; he has 28.5 career sacks, tied for second with Buffalo senior outside linebacker Khalil Mack among all active players.

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Donald -- separately called "a one-man wrecking crew" by Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora -- last week was named the ACC's defensive player of the year. His father, Archie, turned 48 on Monday and called his son winning the Nagurski "the best birthday present ever."

The other finalists were Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Missouri end Michael Sam.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst said that Donald is "gifted. He has great strength and quickness. But the intangibles, the way he competes, the way he studies the game and approaches it ... he has a knack to just make plays."

Donald's final college game will come in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, against MAC champ Bowling Green. Donald's lack of height hurts his draft prospects, but his incredible production still could lead to him being selected in the early rounds.

The Nagurski is voted upon by members of the Football Writers Association of America.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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