Ahead of Super Bowl LVI, we got the call from ESPN to put together a Sport Science on the most dominant player hitting the field on Sunday. No, it wasn't Joey Burrow or Cooper Kupp, and not Jalen Ramsey or Ja'Marr Chase. All worthy subjects, but the one man we really wanted to dive deeper on is the biggest defensive menace in the NFL: Aaron Donald. What makes the Rams defensive lineman such a nightmare to game-plan against? We took a closer look.
Beyond the big hits, there are a lot of intricacies in NFL line play that are hard to track for casual viewers. So we used several comparisons to other sports and other positions in order to make it clear how impressive Donald's feats are on the field. He changes directions like an All-Star point guard and generates momentum like a running back -- just truly a one of a kind athlete. We also used spot shadows and highlight graphics to keep the spotlight on the defensive tackle at all times.
The 3D model once again allowed us to have a lot of fun, while also illustrating some of the more complex topics around Donald's dominance. One of the most important factors in his game is the momentum he builds, and our model served as the best way to simplify the concept. The animation of an Aaron Donald hit, turning the quarterback into essentially a crash-test dummy, was a great way to inject a little fun into the segment.
The stars are going to be out in Los Angeles on Sunday, both on the field and at the game. And despite all the huge names on both rosters, it wouldn't surprise us if Donald turns out to shine the brightest. Just be thankful you aren't the one lining up opposite the Rams superstar.