PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The numbers and the face of the man behind them seem out of whack.
Aaron Donald doesn't look like the most disruptive defensive player in the country, one whose relentlessness is creating a minor groundswell of Heisman Trophy support. Generously listed at 6-feet and probably more than a few cheeseburgers short of his published weight of 285 pounds, the Pittsburgh senior speaks in a soft, thoughtful voice that doesn't exactly scream hulking menace.
To be fair, that's the way Donald appears off the field. On it, he says, he becomes ''a different person.''
One who might be having the most dominant season of any player at any position in the country.
Heading into the final home game of his collegiate career on Friday against Miami, Donald leads the nation in tackles for loss (26), is 10th in sacks (10) and 11th in forced fumbles (four). He even threw in a blocked extra point that ended up being the difference in a 17-16 victory over Syracuse last weekend that assured Pitt (6-5, 3-4 ACC) of a sixth straight bowl berth.
When asked how a short guy manages to get his hand on an extra point, the typically serious Donald breaks character and says with a smile, ''I'm 6-4!''
Only, it seems, when he's in his cleats.
''He's not the biggest guy,'' Pitt senior offensive lineman Ryan Schlieper said. ''That's why he's not getting all the hype. But he plays like the biggest guy out there, that's all that matters.''
Stuck in the middle of a middling defense on a middling team in a middling conference, Donald has been the one constant on a team that fluctuates from promising to problematic with maddening consistency. Press coach Paul Chryst on what has been Donald's most impressive feat in a season full of them and Chryst struggles to come up with an answer.
Is it the clinic he put on in a loss to Georgia Tech earlier this month, when he recorded six tackles for loss, forced two fumbles and picked up a sack? Or his three tackles for loss and two sacks against Virginia Tech in mid-October? Or how about the four quarters he put together against the Orange last week, when he recorded nine tackles on a day Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said his team did its best to run to the opposite side of the field?
''Last year he was a good player,'' Shafer said. ''This year he's a great player. I've seen him over the years and he's really grown as a kid that plays hard all the time.''
Including practice. Especially practice. Schlieper spent most of the last four years trying to find a way to get the better of Donald during their countless midweek matchups. Schlieper lost far more than he won. He called having to face Donald regularly ''probably one of the worst things you could imagine.''
Schlieper is kidding, but only a little.
''You can't play one thing,'' Schlieper said. ''One person has good speed. One person has good power. Let's say you stop Aaron Donald's speed, he's just going to run you over so. He's got everything.''
Including, perhaps, a darkhorse shot a picking up some Heisman Trophy votes. Already a finalist for every major award given to players at his position, Donald has been so impressive there has been a grassroots effort to get his name penciled in on a few Heisman ballots, an honor given almost exclusively to the top skill position player on one of the nation's best teams.
Donald doesn't fit the criteria. Neither does his team. Yet Pitt coach Paul Chryst points out Donald stacks up favorably to former Nebraska star Ndamukong Suh, who finished fourth in the 2009 Heisman race behind winner Mark Ingram.
Through this point in their respective seasons Donald has more tackles for loss and more sacks per game than Suh, who had the luxury of playing for marquee program that nearly knocked off eventual national runner-up Texas in the Big 12 title game. And Suh went off in that conference title game.
There will be no such spotlight for Pitt, which needs to beat the reeling Hurricanes (8-3, 4-3) to avoid a third consecutive 6-6 finish. Donald would prefer to go out on a high note and provide one more memory to remember the ''brotherhood'' he's found with the Panthers.
Though he's a near lock to go early in the NFL draft next spring, Donald refuses to give himself the chance to gaze that far down the road, pointing out ''nothing is promised.''
Donald would know. He arrived at Pittsburgh four years ago as an undersized nose tackle whose only other real option was Toledo, where his older brother Archie played for the Rockets. He wasn't supposed to evolve into the kind of disruptive force that leaves offensive coordinators grasping for ways to neutralize him. It happened anyway.
''I think this young man has really worked hard at his craft,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. ''I think that's the thing I admire about him. He's taken his talent and cultivated it into skill. The result is a heck of a football player.''
One that refuses to say he's arrived even as the accolades continue to pile up as quickly as his eye-popping numbers.
''It's my mindset that I'm not where I want to be,'' Donald said. ''I still want to be better, and I just want to stay humble about it. It's not an act. It's just how I am.''