2014 Arch Awards: St. Louis Sports Rising Star Nominees


Here at Arch Authority, we’re paying tribute to the 2014 season in St. Louis sports through the Arch Awards, which is our way to honor the finest moments, teams, and individual performers in our city this year. We’ll be revealing the nominees in six different categories over the next few days, beginning today with the Rising Star Award. The Rising Star is the rookie who made the most profound impact on their team during the 2014 calendar year. Our nominees are Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, and Blues goalie Jake Allen, all who have been instrumental in their teams’ success this year.

Please vote for the most deserving nominee below and scroll down to read more about why we believed the nominees to be deserving candidates.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Donald: After a prolific college career at the University of Pittsburgh, Aaron Donald was able to destroy most of the doubts about his undersized 6-foot-1, 285-pound frame with an impressive pre-draft circuit. In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Donald fell to the 13th selection in this year’s draft and was snatched up by the Rams.

Though the rookie came out of the box somewhat slowly and was limited to backup duty for the first few weeks, he has turned it on big-time and has arguably been the Rams’ MVP this year, collecting 54 total tackles, six sacks, 21 quarterback pressures, and nine QB hits. Despite being a reserve in the first four games of the season, that puts Donald fourth in the NFL in sacks among 4-3 defensive tackles, trailing only Marcell Dareus, Gerald McCoy, and Sen’Derrick Marks. Also, for what it’s worth, he’s now ranked as the best defensive tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus.

Donald has shown that he can be a serious pass-rushing threat from the interior for years to come, and already is tied for the second-most sacks of any Rams defensive tackle, as Fred Robbins (2010) and La’Roi Glover (2007) both had six in a season, while Brian Young had 6.5 in 2001. That valuable skill set makes him an immediate star in the league, and could even put him in the Pro Bowl conversation as a rookie.

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Kolten Wong: There were certainly ups and downs in Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong’s rookie season, notably an early-season demotion to Triple-A Memphis and a shoulder injury that caused him struggles at the plate. By the end of 2014, though, Wong had cemented himself as the Cardinals’ permanent second baseman and was even a finalist for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

The 24-year-old hit .249/.292/.388 with 12 homers, 42 RBI, and a team-leading 20 stolen bases in 2014, in addition to playing very solid defense throughout the year. His eight homers between July 6 and August 7 allowed the Cardinals to stay in contention at a time when they were depleted offensively by the loss of Yadier Molina. If Wong can keep playing at the level he did in 2014, he may develop into the first 20 homers/20 steals threat that the Cardinals have had in a long while.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Allen: After experiencing a one-year delay on his full-time arrival in the NHL due to the presence of Jaroslav Halak and then Ryan Miller on the Blues’ roster in 2013-14, Jake Allen has arrived in full force so far during the 2014-15 season. Through 12 games, the 24-year-old goaltender has gone 8-3-1 with a 2.32 goals against average and .914 save percentage while posting two shutouts. At one point this season, he had a shutout streak of 184 minutes and 38 minutes. Allen recently assumed the Blues’ starting job as Brian Elliott went down with a lower-body injury, so it should be interesting to see if he can keep up the immense success he’s enjoyed early on now that he’ll be getting extended playing time.