The Grind is Over Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Lombardi's Way The Grind is Over

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Marshal Yanda Retires After 13 Seasons

Back in 2007 when the Ravens were on the clock set to make their third-round pick, guard was probably the last position I expected from GM Ozzie Newsome with the 86th overall pick. After all, Ozzie just made Ben Grubbs the team’s first round pick. But with that pick, Ozzie called the name of a player who played for a man he knew well…University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Marshal Yanda then became a Raven.

Yanda started in 12 of 16 games during his rookie season and was the defacto starter heading into 2008. But during game five he suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for the balance of the season and bring into question his availability early in 2009.

But Marshal, being the grinder he’s always been, managed to play in all 16 games in 2009, starting in 9 of them. From that point forward, Yanda was a staple of the Ravens offense. During his stellar career the former Iowa Hawkeye and Cedar Rapids native was named to the Pro Bowl 8 times, an All Pro seven times and of course he was a Super Bowl Champion. Only two other guards in NFL history can make such claims, Larry Allen and Alan Faneca. And both are in the Hall of Fame.

Words like tough, gritty, dogged and tenacious have been used to describe Yanda. During training camp of his rookie season, former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott was asked about Marshal. Bart replied:

“He plays with a lot of intensity, and he’s a nasty guy, which we always like. We don’t have a lot of nasty guys over there on the offensive side, but I think he brings an attitude and a swagger. I heard he was a pig farmer coming in, and it doesn’t get any [more] gutter than that. You got farmer street cred.”

Soon thereafter, he simply had cred. By example he earned massive respect. Fast forward to training camp in 2012, practice had ended and John Harbaugh, just as he always has, brought the team together to recap practice and set the stage for upcoming team activities. But before the gathering broke Harbaugh gave the floor over to Yanda.

The chatter amongst 90 teammates that hovered above the huddled players like a buzz even as Harbaugh addressed the group, suddenly stopped. It was like a night in the forest punctuated by the chirping of crickets that suddenly went silent.

From the media’s vantage point, Yanda’s words were inaudible. But judging from the quiet that hung over Yanda’s teammates like a comforting cloud, players clung to each of Yanda’s words. It was obvious that the message hit its mark. When Yanda finished his teammates chanted his name. Yanda, Yanda, Yanda.

Later we learned that Yanda’s message during that sweltering summer day in Owings Mills, was “Embrace The Grind”. Players who do the dirty work to allow others to shine, often go under-appreciated. But as evidenced by Bart Scott, Yanda’s impact was felt immediately. As he matured as a player and a man, Yanda’s leadership grew immensely. He would often address his teammates before games with encouraging words such as, “make the best of your opportunity”.

Yanda

Image courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens Facebook Page

[Related Article: Knee-Jerk Reactions to Marshal Yanda’s Retirement]

For over a decade Yanda did exactly that in the purple and black. He made the best of his opportunity. He practiced what he preached – perhaps even more consistently than any player to ever wear a Ravens uniform.

Yanda made the best of each opportunity.

His retirement leaves a tremendous void not only as a player, but as a stabilizing personality in the locker room. You don’t easily replace a Marshal Yanda. You only hope that someone comes along and travels a similar career path that Yanda set ablaze for 13 seasons.

I wish Marshal all the best. Thank you for all of your contributions on and off the field. I hope that in retirement you find the same joy, satisfaction and success that you delivered to the city of Baltimore.

The grind is over…

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi
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