Chris Long said he knew in summer 2014, before Aaron Donald played one snap with the then-St. Louis Rams, that the former Pitt standout would be as good as he is.
“I would like to credit myself with being the first person know he was going to be amazing,” Long said with a smile during Part 4 of this week’s “Huddle Up with Gus” podcast. “We used to joke his rookie camp that he was going to be in the Hall of Fame, but I kind of wasn’t joking.”
Long, son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, played his first eight seasons with the Rams, including 2014 and ‘15 — Donald’s first two seasons in the NFL. Long was drafted second overall in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Virginia and retired in May with 70 career sacks and 15 forced fumbles.
He called Donald “the best football player in the world, in my opinion.”
“I’ve never seen anybody work so hard, who had so much talent and play so violent and play with such tenacity,” he said. “This guy would fight you on the field at the drop of a hat, and I respect that about him, and outworks everybody.
“I would be the last person in the film room usually at the end of camp, and I would go in there and watch tape once everybody was at home. I started going in there an opening the door and turning the lights on to find my pen or notebook, and he was in there every night.”
Long said Donald and others who played at Pitt have an “edge.”
“From Avonte Maddox to Aaron to any of the guys I played with from Pitt, honestly, in their own ways, they have a great edge to them, a good confidence, a good edge, very confident right off the bat, pro ready,” he said. “And not to recruit for Pitt, but these guys are consistently great pros.”
Long said Donald, a Penn Hills graduate, takes a lot of pride in his roots.
“He’s a guy who doesn’t forget where he comes from,” he said.
Donald recently made a seven-figure donation to Pitt, the largest by a football letterman to the program.
Coming Friday: Part 5 with Chris Long