However, after Penn Hills middle linebacker Dan Mason signed with Pittsburgh less than three months ago, the Indians continued the trend when defensive tackle Aaron Donald verbally committed to the Panthers after school Thursday.
Donald is a senior at Penn Hills this coming fall and is expected to sign with Pitt in February, 2010.
"I called Coach Gattuso, who was recruiting me, and also talked to Coach Wannstedt,'' Donald said. "Just looking at the defense, I thought Pitt was the school that would fit me best for my football career.
"I also knew that there wasn't going to be another school that I could fall in love with like I fell in love with Pitt. So, I love everything about Pitt, and I just wanted to commit as soon as I could. So, that's what I did today.''
Donald noted that he and Mason talk frequently, and his former Penn Hills teammate made a point to talk up the Panthers as much as possible. Now, the two could form a dynamic duo to possibly secure Indians like defensive backs Cullen Christian and Brandon Ifill, both heavily recruited by Pitt.
"Maybe so,'' Donald said. "I'm sure we'll talk about it. It would be great to have all of us playing at Pitt, as many Penn Hills guys as possible.''
Former Pitt greats like Bill Fralic, Tom Tumulty and Tom Flynn from the Panthers' storied past, along with Demond Gibson and Troy Banner from more recent years were all Penn Hills products. Now, Mason and Donald, at least, will be able to relight and carry the Indians' banner at Pitt.
Donald is a 6-foot, 260-pound powerhouse who some have compared to Pitt fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mick Williams. But don't expect Donald to take as long as Williams to make an impact. Not only does Donald appear to be able to contribute early, he'll need to. Williams is among four senior defensive tackles on Pitt's roster for this fall.
Williams is joined by Craig Bokor, Gus Mustakas and Tommie Duhart in their final year of eligibility at Pitt. Myles Caragein, a redshirt sophomore, is expected to start with Williams in the middle of the Panthers' defensive line this fall, while redshirt sophomore Chas Alecxih and redshirt junior Tyler Tkach also were moved inside after a season at end.
Bernardo Nunez from Hoboken, N.J. High School, Jack Lippert from Central Dauphin HS in Harrisburg, Pa. and Tyrone Ezell from Steel Valley HS in Munhall, Pa. are defensive tackles who will be freshmen this year. Another commit, Juantez Hollins from Aliquippa, Pa. HS, is listed as a defensive tackle as well. But he likely will be tried out on the offensive line.
"My family feels the same way I feel about Pitt, they really love it, and it doesn't hurt that it's close to home,'' Donald said. "That's just a bonus, though. Everything about Pitt is right for me, the football, the academics. I love the facilities. It's just a perfect situation for me.
"And I also have a chance to get on the field right away. That's important. I want to get on the field as soon as I can, so to play as a freshman next year would be great. I know they lose a lot of D-linemen this year, so the young guys coming in this year and me next year have a good chance to play early.
"And (Mason) told me that I'm going to like the Pitt defense a lot because very similar to what we play at Penn Hills,'' Donald added. "So, I can't wait to get to Pitt and play for them. But I'm also looking forward to my senior year at Penn Hills. I won't have to worry about recruiting, and we should be pretty good.''
Donald earned All-Combine team honors at the Pittsburgh combine in March and had close to 20 sacks as a junior last fall at Penn Hills.
Donald is Pitt's second 2010 verbal, as safety-tailback Derrick Burns from Wilmington HS in New Wilmington, Pa. committed earlier this year.
Donald: "Pitt's A Great Fit''
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