ATLANTA – Aaron Donald’s rookie season came 11 years after John Randle’s final NFL snap. So one’s never quite sure how well today’s greats know yesterday’s greats, or if they know of them at all.
Donald, the Rams’ undersized quick-twitch muscle motor of a defensive tackle, answered that with the way he laughed at a Minneapolis-based reporter for asking if he had ever heard of Randle, the former undersized quick-twitch muscle motor of a defensive tackle who played 11 of his 14 seasons with the Vikings.
“Yeah, I know who John Randle is,” said Donald, who’s expected to win his second consecutive NFL Defensive Player of the Year award this season. “I have a whole lot of respect for him. He was a monster. He did it all.”
Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Donald reminds him of Randle. He’s not alone in that assessment.
“When I got into the league as a rookie, I had my guys break down film of Warren Sapp and John Randle … guys who had similar body types to me,” Donald said. “I wanted to see how they did what they did and learn from it.”
Donald has 59½ sacks through 78 regular-season games in five seasons. Randle had 48 of his 137½ career sacks through 80 games in his first five seasons.
Donald, of course, was the 13th overall draft pick in 2014. Randle was undrafted in 1990.
So, does Donald see similarities?
“With some things,” he said. “Everybody plays different. Everybody does different things. But you can see things here and there for sure.”