Lineman gives team a jolt

Marshal Yanda

Versatile big man at guard after charging into tackle role last season

Ravens

August 13, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

Filled with the blush of youth, Marshal Yanda took the dare, stepped into the middle of the group and got tasered with a stun gun. Not once, not twice, but three times.

And he stayed upright.

"I took it for three, four seconds, just stepped out and said, 'Yeah, it hurts a little bit, but it ain't that bad,' " the Ravens guard recalled. "I let them do it to me a couple more times just to make it worth the money."

It happened a year ago at the end of training camp. In what passes as humor behind closed doors for a football team, players anted up a $600 payoff for any player willing to take the taser treatment.

Yanda, then a rookie, saw the pile of money on the floor and jumped into the circle. Ravens veterans should have known better than to test an Iowa farm boy.

"Easy money," Yanda said, smiling.

"I got shocked a bunch when I was working with electric fences on the farm. I used to run into them, get wrapped up, and they'd shock the crap out of you. I got used to them. It was the older fences that would really bite you, where you feel it on the end of your fingertips. There were a lot of volts there."

The stun gun used on Yanda was not law-enforcement grade, according to center Jason Brown, but the incident still won the rookie a lot of respect in the locker room, as well as the $600 pot.

"We challenge each other in the locker room all the time," Brown said. "We challenge each other's manhood: Can you withstand this much pain? For Marshal, it was one of those things where he overcame it and he gained a lot of respect. He took it like a man."

That was just the beginning for Yanda, a third-round draft pick. Thrust into the Ravens' lineup at right tackle in Week 1 after Jonathan Ogden went down, he made 12 starts and played all 16 regular-season games. On a 5-11 team in transition, he represented one of the few highlights.

This summer, Yanda, 6 feet 3 and 310 pounds, is the starting right guard - a position he feels better suited for than tackle. Together with Brown and left guard Ben Grubbs, it's a formidable interior line, one around which the Ravens can build the future.

For Yanda, who turns 24 in September, it's been a meteoric rise after a slow career start.

He and his sister Katie worked on the family's dairy farm in Anamosa, Iowa, growing up. Yanda gained 50 pounds and 4 inches his sophomore year but still wasn't good enough to get a scholarship offer at Iowa, his college of choice.

He spent two years at North Area Iowa Community College in Mason City, some 20 minutes from the Minnesota border, and then got his chance to join the Hawkeyes under former Ravens line coach Kirk Ferentz.

It was a message from Iowa's strength and conditioning coach, Chris Doyle, that set the tone for Yanda's two years in Iowa City.

"He said I have a very small window of opportunity to gain a lot of ground," Yanda said. "He said, 'You have to take every single day and make it count. You can't take any steps backward.' He said 'Most guys get five years [to prepare for the NFL]; you get two.'

"I took that to heart."

His dedication is what impresses Ravens offensive line coach John Matsko.

Asked if he thought Yanda was an unlikely success story, Matsko said: "I think he's a likely success story because he has great determination. He's got real passion for the game, loves football, loves competition."

Yanda's versatility works well for the Ravens. He filled in capably at tackle last season when the need arose. The team would like to keep him at right guard this season, although he could still wind up at tackle in a pinch.

Matsko said Yanda "can be as good as he wants to be - and he wants to be good."

Yanda isn't getting ahead of himself.

"I've got a long ways to go," he said. "I'm taking steps forward. I know I can become a lot better player. I love the competition, I want to be the best."

And not just in the stun gun game.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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