University of Albany football coach Greg Gattuso invited a special guest to speak to his defensive players via video conference Tuesday during the coronavirus pandemic.
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, twice NFL defensive player of the year, spent almost an hour answering questions from the Albany players who were watching from home.
“It was really nice of Aaron to do it,” said Gattuso. “He’s the best player in the NFL. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
Gattuso recruited Donald from the University of Pittsburgh, where Gattuso was a line coach. Donald played as a rookie for Gattuso in 2010 before the Panthers’ coaching staff was released.
“He always stayed in touch,” said Gattuo. “He’s a really good young man … I asked him to do 15 or 20 minutes because he’s so busy. Heck, he always would if I didn’t stop him. It lasted almost an hour , so it was great. “
Gattuso let his players know on Friday that Donald will join them so they can prepare questions. Redshirt junior Ibn Foster, who is from Newark, N.J. but remains in Albany, admitted that he was skeptical that Donald would actually attend the conference.
“It was really cool to share experiences with him,” said Foster. “All the time, it was just questions and answers. Whatever you wanted to ask him, he was giving answers. He was standing, physically demonstrating certain things. He was really getting started. It was like if we were in our position room and he was there, one of us, everyone was talking and sharing stories. “
Players are taking online courses at home and spring football has been canceled due to the pandemic. The only advantage is that Gattuso is able to invite NFL players via video who could not attend the meetings in person.
The Arizona Cardinals, ball carrier Chase Edmonds, recently spoke about Ulbany’s offensive in favor of attacking coordinator Joe Davis, who coached Edmonds at Fordham. UAlbany assistant coach Joe Bernard has asked defensive lineman Rams Sebastian Joseph-Day, one of his former high school players, to speak in defense of the Great Dane.
“I’m just giving them positive messages (from) some guys who have done it,” said Gattuso. “It went well.”
Gattuso said he has long been a supporter of showing his NFL player team video.
“I always thought it was a great way to gain the trust of children, that what we do is not just what I do,” he said. “This is something I have learned over the years and it is used by the best players in the country.”
Foster admitted that the players were a bit impressed with Donald at first.
But the nervousness subsided after Foster asked Donald the first question about studying the film.
“It just flowed into conversation and laughter,” said Foster. “It became normal, speaking to us as a team, as an lineman.”
Gattuso said that Donald is a great player because of his intelligence, speed and tremendous power even though, at 6 feet 1 inch and 280 pounds, he is not the greatest line player. But it is also impressive for other reasons, said Gattuso, relaying a quote from former UAlbany defensive lineman Nick Dillon.
“Aaron is also a very special human being,” said Gattuso. “He is not only a good football player. His work in the community is incredible. Even Nick Dillon (who ended his career last fall), he blew up my phone because he was not at So I gave him the number and he dialed and he had the line for the day. He said, I feel like I’m talking to Michael Jordan, that’s how important you (Donald) are. “
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