One of Pennsylvania's top high school football players to skip senior season

The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Elliot Donald

The possibility he’d infected his granddad or any other family member with COVID-19 wasn’t worth the risk, said (Pittsburgh) Central Catholic football star Elliot Donald, who has decided to skip his senior season.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive tackle is a Pitt commit and one of the WPIAL’s elite players. He's rated the No. 6 recruit in Pennsylvania in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports.

“I’m not worried about getting it myself,” he said, “but I am worried about giving it to my family.”

For example, Donald works out on the same basement equipment as his grandfather.

“Even though I don’t lift with him, I’d still be using the same equipment as him,” he said. “I would hate to do that.”

Central Catholic coach Terry Totten, calling it a family decision, said Donald was the only player to “opt out.”

Donald and his family decided he should take classes exclusively online this fall. He said he was told he couldn’t take online classes and play football. Central Catholic is using a hybrid education model for fall classes.

“With that and everything else, I decided not to (play),” Donald said. “I haven’t really had a good experience there, so I’m ready to move on to Pitt.”

Donald told Pitt’s coaches about his decision. He would consider early enrollment, he said, but doesn’t believe that’s an option for him right now.

In the meantime, he’ll continue to work with speed coach DeWayne Brown and lift multiple times a week, but said he’s also added sessions with combat trainer Al Carson, who teaches Krav Maga.

Carson previously taught the fighting technique to Donald’s uncle Aaron Donald, an NFL All-Pro defensive lineman. The training, which uses knives, is mean to improve hand-eye coordination.

“I feel like with what I’m doing now, I’m going to be in better shape for college,” Elliot Donald said. “I’ll train for a year straight and still get my football workouts in.”

All combined, he’ll be working out five days a week.

Donald tweeted in early August that football season should be moved to the spring. He said he still thinks that would’ve been the best option.

He’s worried about the two-week shutdowns required for teams that have COVID-19 cases. WPIAL teams currently have a seven-game regular season, but that would be cut to five or three with a case or two, he said.

“I’m thinking about the kids who need film to get offers,” Donald said. “If they pushed it back, hopefully everything would get better with the virus. And then they could actually play a full season.”

The football team learned of Donald’s decision when the team started heat acclimatization Aug. 24.

Donald committed in July to Pitt, choosing the university where his uncle starred. He picked the Panthers from a list of 18 offers that included Penn State and West Virginia, along with LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and others.

Central Catholic was the WPIAL Class 6-A champion last season. The Vikings went 12-2 and reached the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia.

“It was a tough decision. Even now I’m missing it,” Donald said. “But I’m making sure I have everything I need so I can be ready for college.”