Rams’ Donald drops by Simi Valley High, offers advice to players

At first, Simi Valley football players were skeptical that the Rams’ Aaron Donald would stop by their school on Wednesday afternoon. Coach Jim Benkert had told them the news the night before.

“They didn’t believe me,” said Benkert.

Nearly 100 players were seated in the stands at the gym when Donald walked through the entrance in a white T-shirt, gray gym shorts and gray training shoes. Benkert introduced him with a microphone, but soon he was answering questions off the microphone and talking about his early life in Pittsburgh when few schools recruited him from high school; about winning the Super Bowl with the Rams; about what it takes to be successful.

“I don’t mind talking to kids,” Donald said. “I could do that all day.”

Benkert set up the visit, and 6-foot-1, 285-pound center Jess Norton was delighted.

“It’s pretty inspiring and cool to have someone of that size come to Simi Valley,” he said.

One of Donald’s key messages was about training when nobody’s paying attention.

“It’s easy when your coach or your team-mates are around,” he said. “Let’s see how you work when nobody’s looking.”

Donald signed items like jerseys and hats before the 15-minute visit, then snapped photos.

His priority was to make sure players understand that not everyone can play college or professional football, but playing a game you love will breed relationships and friendships with teammates that can last a lifetime. He said he learned discipline and work ethic through football and developed strong bonds.

He said the work ethic he has now wasn’t there when he started. He said in high school his father would get up at 4:30 a.m. to help him exercise.

“Enjoy the moment,” he told the players. “Concentrate on the books.”

As for winning the Super Bowl, Donald said, “There’s no feeling for it.”

Donald said he will continue to look after young athletes. “Anything I can do to help the next generation,” he said.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-07-13/rams-aaron-donald-simi-valley-high Rams’ Donald drops by Simi Valley High, offers advice to players

Emma Bowman

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