OWINGS MILLS – Marshal Yanda grew up in the heartland, raised on a dairy farm in Iowa where he rose at dawn for back-breaking chores in freezing temperatures.
The Baltimore Ravens’ gritty offensive guard endured a grueling season where he underwent emergency surgery on his leg on Christmas Eve to deal with compartment syndrome sustained after he got leg-whipped against the Cleveland Browns.
Yanda also dealt with bruised ribs and loose cartilage suffered in that same game, finishing out the season by playing in every game despite his injuries.
So, being in sunny Hawaii for today’s Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium is quite the reward for Yanda.
"It’s pretty cool," Yanda told 24×7 in a telephone interview this week from Hawaii. "It really is an honor to be here. We’re enjoying the great weather and checking out the big waves on the North Shore. It’s an incredible experience."
Iowa and the Yanda family are well-represented at the Pro Bowl.
Yanda brought his relatives and his wife’s family to Hawaii this week, traveling with about a dozen people.
"It’s pretty nice to be out here with them," Yanda said. "This is the kind of thing you want to share with the people that are close to you."
Yanda has more than justified the Ravens’ investment in him last August when he signed a five-year, $32 million contract that included a $10 million signing bonus.
And this marks Yanda’s first Pro Bowl appearance following a strong season of blocking where Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice gained a career-high 1,364 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
It was Yanda and fellow Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs who led a lot of the interference for Rice, pulling and getting to the second level to wall off linebackers and create large holes for him to run through.
It took a toll, though, on Yanda.
He wasn’t even close to 100 percent in the playoffs against the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots, and it showed.
He had trouble slowing down Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.
Yanda said he won’t need to have any offseason surgeries to repair any injuries, just needing time to fully heal up.
"The soreness is still there, but it’s starting to go away," Yanda said. "I’m feeling a lot better. I feel better every day."
The emotions triggered by the Ravens’ heartbreaking 23-20 AFC championship game to the Patriots have yet to fade away.
"We were so close," Yanda said. "It’s definitely tough to take, but you’ve got to move on. Being out here is a good way to stay busy and Hawaii is an amazing place to be. It’s definitely special to be here."
NOTE: The Ravens signed former Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins linebacker Cody Glenn (Nebraska) and former Houston Texans offensive guard Howard Barbieri (Rutgers) to reserve/future deals.