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Rams 8-time All-Pro DT Aaron Donald announces retirement after 10 seasons in NFL

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A decade of Hall of Fame-level dominance is coming to an end.

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald announced his retirement on Friday following 10 seasons in the NFL.

"For 10 years, I have been fortunate to play the game of football at the highest level. 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 said in a lengthy statement in which he thanked both the cities of St. Louis and Los Angeles.

"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. 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.

"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. 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 first flirted with retirement following the Rams' Super Bowl LVI triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals, but instead leveraged the possibility of walking away in negotiations for a lucrative new contract. He won't see the end of that contract, which was set to expire following the upcoming 2024 season. Instead, he walks away with 10 Pro Bowl selections, eight first-team All-Pro honors, three AP Defensive Player of the Year nods, a Super Bowl ring and a place on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team of the 2010s.

The 2014 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year began his career as the 13th overall pick of the Rams out of Pittsburgh, quickly grabbing the attention of football fans everywhere with his explosive, devastatingly quick play along the defensive interior. He finished with nine sacks, 18 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and his first Pro Bowl selection of what would prove to be an incredibly illustrious career.

No matter what happened with the Rams -- coaching changes, quarterback changes, relocation to Los Angeles -- Donald was the constant for the franchise. He missed just nine games in his career, made the Pro Bowl in every season in which he played (one of six players in NFL history to do so), and finished with the second-most first-team All-Pro selections in the first 10 seasons of his career, trailing only Hall of Famers Ron Mix and Jim Otto.

Throughout his 10-year career, Donald never relented, leading all players in sacks, quarterback hits (per Next Gen Stats), and tackles for loss since being drafted in 2014. He owned a significant lead in the latter two categories in that span before retiring Friday, and finished as the only player in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016) with 500-plus QB pressures, leading the next closest defender, Cleveland's Myles Garrett, by 124.

The numbers are staggering in volume, and even more impressive when considering how he recorded them. In an era in which edge rushers dominate headlines (and many opposing tackles) and command top dollar, Donald instilled fear in the hearts of opposing interior linemen across the league, frequently blasting his way through ill-fated double teams on his way to the quarterback. No one was quicker off the ball and more devastating with his hands than Donald, a master of his craft worthy of only the highest respect.

It was only fitting that when he finally received his best chance to win a title, Donald was the one to close the deal, pressuring 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo into throwing a game-sealing interception in the NFC Championship Game and celebrating by pointing to his ring finger.

Two weeks later, he'd earn that ring in nearly identical fashion, whipping Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow around as the Bengals QB desperately released a pass that never had a chance of being completed. When the ball fell harmlessly to the SoFi Stadium turf -- the same turf Donald knew as his own in his final four years -- Donald had officially become a Super Bowl champion.

He retires as the Rams' all-time sack leader (111), and as one of only three players to earn three Defensive Player of the Year awards in his career, joining the elite company of J.J. Watt and Lawrence Taylor. In five years' time, he'll receive the greatest honor of all: a gold jacket from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, capping one of the greatest careers in football history.

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