OWINGS MILLS, MD
He came into the National Football League as an unheralded rookie out of the University of Iowa.
No big press conference was needed.
Few outside of the state of Iowa even knew the name Marshal Yanda back in 2007.
But, after a football career spent playing the game at its highest level with the Anamosa Blue Raiders, North Iowa Area Community College, Hawkeyes and then 13 incredible years with the Baltimore Ravens, Yanda earned a reputation as one of the NFL’s all-time best offensive linemen performing game-in and game-out with grit and determination.
And most likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer as an eight-team Pro Bowl (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019), five-time second-team All-Pro (2011, 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2019) and two-time first-team All-Pro (2014 and 2015) selection.
So, when the Anamosa native decided it was time to retire Wednesday March 11, at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills, Maryland, it was national news.
This time a press conference would be needed, and one room could barely hold all the media, former players, friends, family and coaches who all wanted to be there to show their appreciation for a man who played the game with class and dignity.
And, walked away from it on his own terms.
Yes, Marshal Yanda is coming home.
“I wanted to make sure I was leaving the game at a point where I wanted the Ravens to miss me and want me back, not happily patting me on the back being glad that I’m retiring because I wasn’t any good anymore,” Yanda said. “That was very important to me. I wanted to retire on my own terms and not have to make the Ravens make a decision about my future. I wanted to make that decision. So being able to retire like this, I’m happy and very satisfied. In the end this was a pretty easy decision for me and my family.”
When asked where Yanda and his family would be living upon retirement, that answer came pretty easy as well.
“We’re heading back to Iowa,” he said. “We’re going home.”
Yanda said the family will wait until the end of the school year so his oldest son Graham can finish out school in Baltimore, but once that happens, they will pack up and head back to their Marion home, which they have done after each off-season for more than a decade.
“I’ve got no definite plans yet as far as what I’ll do in retirement,” Yanda said. “Eventually I’d probably like to have football in my life in some capacity, but at this point I’m just not too sure what capacity that’s going to be. I’ll have to wait and see. Right now, what I do know is that I’d like to go back to Iowa and help my dad out on the farm. After that we’ll just have to see where my heart takes me.”
Yanda knew following an injury plagued 2017 season with the Ravens that the end of his career was near.
“After that year, I felt like I was being put on notice,” he said. “At that point I was mentally prepared to retire if I couldn’t stay healthy. I knew if I could make it through this 2019 season that it would probably be it for me. I was able to do that. We had a great season, one I’ll never forget. But I wanted to leave the game healthy, I didn’t want to go out being hurt. I felt that if I kept pushing and tried to play in 2020, I might get hurt, and I didn’t want to sacrifice my health. My family and my health made the decision to retire easy for me.
“I’ve watched guys try to hang on to their football careers for too long and I didn’t want to be that guy.”
With former Baltimore General Manager Ozzie Newsome, current GM Eric DeCosta and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh all sitting by Yanda’s side at the retirement ceremony, the threesome completely understood his decision.
“Everything Marshal does is right, done to perfection and he has always played the game with such a high level of intensity,” Harbaugh said. “Honestly, I don’t know how he did it all these years at that level, but he did, which I think makes him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
DeCosta knows it’s going to be extremely difficult moving forward without Yanda in the line-up on the offensive line.
“You can’t just replace a guy like Marshal,” he said. “We’ll have to hope to hit on a guy in the draft or in free agency, but the odds of that happening are slim. Marshal is a once every 10-year type of guy, and we’ve been extremely lucky to have been able to call him a Baltimore Raven for a very long time. It’s because of that, and everything that Marshal has been about for his entire 13-year career with us that I’m proud to announce that Marshal will be inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium.”
Newsome, who drafted Yanda in the third-round back in 2007, appreciated the toughness Yanda brought to the field each and every practice and each and every game.
“We have always had a phrase here in Baltimore, ‘Play like a Raven’,” Newsome said. “If I could put up a billboard and list the players we’ve had that embody that phrase, Marshal would be one of the first to go on that list. He’s tough, competitive and smart. He’s the complete football player, and he’s really going to be missed here.”
Yanda also knows there are things about the game that he’s going to miss, too.
“I love this game for so many reasons,” he said. “I’ve relished the opportunity to play for this great organization for my entire career and the game has given me so much more than I could ever give it. I always wanted to be here, but for me though, it’s time.
“Time to go home and spent more time with my family. My wife Shannon and my kids Graham, Libby and Logan. I can’t wait to get started with this next phase of my life.”