Anamosa Honors Former Hawkeye Yanda, And Vise Versa

By Mike Hlas (Story) and Josh Christensen (Video), Reporters

ANAMOSA, Iowa — Winning a Super Bowl before 71,000 fans in the Superdome was fantastic, and being in a Baltimore victory parade surrounded by 200,000 happy people was incredible.

But the essence of All-Pro Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda was on display Sunday afternoon in Anamosa High School. About 400 friends, fans, and family members gathered to give Yanda a couple of honors he would probably rank with any he's gotten in the pros.

AHS's weight room was named the Marshal Yanda Weight Room. And, the No. 77 he wore for the Raiders a decade ago was retired.

There was a 45-minute ceremony with speeches from Yanda's high school coach, Dan Kiley, and his Iowa Hawkeyes coach, Kirk Ferentz. Yanda addressed the gathering for seven minutes, using the phrase "hard work" several times in describing how he got where he's at and how the young Raiders who were listening to him could get where they want to go.

What said more about Yanda and his town, though, was afterward. The signing of autographs and posing for photos was an opening for him to leisurely shake hands and converse with people, young and old, including many longtime friends.

"He's a small-town guy who enjoys this town, and I think everybody enjoys him," said Chad Bildstein of Anamosa, who was a teammate of Yanda's and an all-state football player himself.

"He goes to show if you get your head on straight and decide to do something, you can do it," said Pete Bungum, anda's seventh-grade geography teacher. "What an inspiration."

This may be as close to the Iowa athletic success story as Iowans would write from scratch. The son of a fourth-generation dairy cow farmer didn't have the grades to play major-college football out of high school. Not giving up on that goal, he enrolled at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City. NIACC doesn't even have football anymore.

"At NIACC, we had 122 guys on the football team," Yanda told the crowd. "Our coach said 'How many of you want to play Division I ball?' Everybody raised their hand. Then he said less than one percent of you would make it.

"I buckled down and took that to heart. I was the one guy who made it out of 122, by working hard and sacrificing."

Just as important as his development as a player, Yanda stayed at NIACC one summer to take 17 semester hours of classes in order to graduate junior college in a year-and-a-half.

"All my buddies went home except for four of us," he said. "If I wouldn't have done that, I probably be here (getting honored). It's the little things you sacrifice that turn out to be big deals."

Something about Yanda persuaded then-Iowa offensive line coach Reese Morgan to persuade Ferentz to put Yanda on scholarship, and the player made the most of his two seasons playing for the Hawkeyes. Now, he's a 6-year NFL veteran who had a Super Bowl ring that got passed around in the Anamosa gym Sunday.

Ferentz told the audience that NFL scouts often look for "the guys I call the pretty players, guys that really test well and all that stuff."

"I told personnel people 'Your line coach is gonna be mad at you if you take (Yanda) because he's not the prettiest guy. But I guarantee you when camp starts and it's time to start playing football, your line coach is gonna walk down the hall somewhere in the first three days and say 'You know, this Yanda guy's OK.' "

The Ravens took Yanda in the third round of the 2007 draft. In hindsight, it was a steal.

There was some Ravens and Hawkeyes garb worn by folks who endured 80-degree weather and humidity in the gym. But mostly, it was AHS blue-and-white. This was a homecoming for a 28-year-old guy has gone from A (Anamosa) to B (Baltimore), but keeps coming back to his starting point.

Kiley kept Yanda's old No. 77 jersey after his final game with the Raiders. He said he thought the player would go on to bigger things.

"It's never free, it's never cheap," Kiley said. "You have to work for it."

That sounds like something to think about in a weight room. A weight room named for someone who worked for it.
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