Sean McDermott spent the 2000s with the Philadelphia Eagles in Pennsylvania, so maybe he had heard about a good in-state wrestling prospect at Penn Hills in Pittsburgh. But probably not.
McDermott, how head coach of the Buffalo Bills, will have his attention on Aaron Donald the football player this Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Rams. But he thinks that the reason there will so much attention on Donald will be at least partially related to his experience in another sport.
This week, McDermott told the media on Wednesday that he sees Donald’s wrestling history as a key factor in his NFL success.
“That speaks for itself, right?” McDermott said. “Everything that goes into wrestling, man. I watched him warm up in the Super Bowl on TV and he’s warming up like a wrestler. If my information is right, I think he was a wrestler and a good one. I mean, that background serves people well in a lot of ways in their lives.”
Donald played at Pitt in the early part of the 2010s and was roommates with future Vikings offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings, who in 2015 said: “We wrestled a lot and just did what college guys do, said Clemmings, who arrived on campus in 2010, the same year as Donald. “We won a couple of wrestling matches against other teammates, raided a couple of rooms back in the day. We would even wrestle each other sometimes.”
Donald made it to Pitt because then-head coach Dave Wannstadt heavily recruited him out of Penn Hills specifically because of his wrestling attributes.
“He was not a highly recruited kid,” said Dave Wannstedt, who persuaded Donald to play at Pitt in what would become his final recruiting class.
“He was wrestling then. In our scheme, any guy who was a wrestler I always thought that was a nice intangible for a football player. You saw his quickness and stuff, but it wasn’t off the charts. He was perfect physically for what we were looking for as far as an inside tackle. We recruited him, and it all worked out.”
Wannstadt said that it’s rare to find players who both have the intangibles and can make the plays and that for it to be a defensive tackle with his kind of sack numbers is “just unheard of.”
But now we’ve heard of Aaron Donald and when McDermott hears that name, he thinks “wrestler.”
The Bills host the Rams at 10 AM on Sunday.