How Hawaii’s own ‘Coach Nokes’ helped prep one of football’s best defensive players

Aaron Donald of the LA Rams is not just the most dominant defensive player in the game now, he’s already one of the greatest to have ever played.
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:17 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Aaron Donald of the LA Rams is not just the most dominant defensive player in the game now, he’s already one of the greatest to have ever played.

And when asked about his preparation, he quickly points out Damien Memorial School graduate Inoke Breckterfield.

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“My junior year in college I had a defensive line coach named Coach Nokes,” Donald said. “He actually helped me and taught me how to actually study film.”

Breckterfield has had an extensive coaching career and coached Donald at the University of Pittsburgh.

Inoke says it was obvious Donald was on his way.

“First impression was OK, ‘this guy loves football and he loves practice and he loves training.’ That’s the biggest thing that stood out,” he said.

Inoke says the first game of Donald’s senior year was a loss to Florida State.

And while everyone else left the stadium after the game Donald stuck around to watch the video and left a whole bunch of notes. And it went on for the rest of the year.

“Starting from that game he would leave notes on the board,” Breckterfield said.

“And I’d come in the next morning And he’d either be sleeping on the chairs or he’d come in later on and we’d go through through the film and answer all the questions that he had.”

Donald says that diligence and Breckterfield’s guidance gave him a big advantage.

“Once I started to do that I feel the game slowed down,” said Donald.

“You might see certain formations or a stance that a guy got that you know it’s a pass. You know it’s a run. You know where they going so you can go 100 miles per hour.

“So once I started doing that and watching film with him and he actually telling me, teaching me what I’m watching instead of just watching that’s when I started seeing my game going to another level.”

But as intense a competitor as Donald is, he has a lighter side. He loves playing jokes on his teammates.

“He would always go around like putting salt in everyone’s Gatorade,” Breckterfield said, with a smile.

After college, Donald was a first round draft pick.

He’s been named defensive player of the year three times already. And yet, he still keeps in touch with Coach “Nokes,” still mentions him in interviews and still makes time to chat whenever they can.

“It is pretty cool to look back and see Aaron doing what he’s doing and not forgetting the guys that helped him to get to where he’s at and have an impact on him,” says Breckterfield in awe.

“Like I said I text. He texts right back. I call he calls right back. So he’s a guy that appreciates those kinds of things.”

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