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Aaron Donald, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, announces retirement to end 10-year NFL career

Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald is calling it a career at 32 years old. He will go down as one of the most decorated and dominant defensive players the NFL has ever seen.

He announced the news via social media on Friday, to the relief of quarterbacks all over the league.

"For 10 years, I have been fortunate to play the game of football at the highest level," Donald wrote. "I'm thankful for the people I've met along the way, the relationships I've built and the things I've accomplished with my teammates and individually."

Donald is only the third player in NFL history to be named Defensive Player of the Year three times. He retires with 111 sacks and a 2021 season Super Bowl championship. The 10-time Pro Bowler recorded double-digit sacks in six of his seasons, never dropping below eight sacks per campaign in his career.

He garnered seven straight First-Team All-Pro selections from 2015 to '21, earning another after the 2023 season for eight overall. A no-brainer for the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, he was one of six unanimous choices for the honor.

The Rams selected Donald with the 13th overall selection of the 2014 Draft out of Pitt. Naturally, he went on to become the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"Throughout my career, I have given my everything to football both mentally and physically - 365 days a year was dedicated to becoming the best possible player I could be. I respected this game like no other and I'm blessed to be able to conclude my NFL career with the same franchise that drafted me," Donald's statement said. "Not many people get drafted to a team, win a World Championship with that team and retire with that team. I do not, and will not, take that for granted."

The team released a simple but effective graphic after his announcement:

Donald's retirement comes after he twice floated the idea during a round of public contract negotiations with the Rams in 2022. He soon landed a contract restructure worth $95 million, and it doesn't seem to have been about the money this time. In Friday's statement, Donald cited the desire to spend more time with his family.

"As I turn my focus to a new chapter, I don't know what the future holds, but I am excited about the off the field possibilities. I'm looking forward to spending more time with my wife, Erica and my kids, Jaeda, AJ, Aaric and Aali," he wrote. "The greatest reward was being able to play this game with them by my side, and I can't wait to watch them live out their dreams just as they watched me live out mine."

Donald grew up in Pittsburgh and played the first two years of his NFL career in St. Louis as the Rams didn't move to Los Angeles until after the 2015 season. He thanked the people of St. Louis and Los Angeles in his statement.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 14: Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on from the sideline prior to an NFC Wild Card Playoff football game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 14, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images)
Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams notched a host of accolades during his dominant career. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images) (Ryan Kang via Getty Images)

He also thanked team owner Stan Kroenke and his family, expressing further gratitude to everyone in the organization with whom he formed a relationship.

"I appreciate everyone on the field, off the field and behind the scenes that made my job smooth," Donald wrote. "I know I'm going to miss my teammates and the camaraderie we had in the building, as well as the coaches who will continue to have a lasting impact on me."

Rams head coach Sean McVay issued a statement, heralding Donald as one of the team's most important influences.

"The great players in our league elevate the people around them and Aaron has modeled the way for our team as long as I've been with the Rams," McVay said. "He's an elite competitor, someone who leads by example in a way that's authentic to him, and an exceptional teammate who inspires everyone around him to be the best version of themselves. As great of a player he is, he's an even better person. He is truly one of one and epitomizes everything that's right about sports."

The Rams entered this offseason with the potential to be back in contention quickly. Donald's absence marks a major hole to fill if the team hopes to maintain that outlook.