Former Hawkeye Marshal Yanda returns to Iowa City as ANF Wall of Honor recipient

The 13-year NFL veteran is the ninth former player to receive the honor.


Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, left, shakes hands with former Iowa and NFL football offensive lineman Marshal Yanda speaks during a NCAA football news conference, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Kirk Ferentz glanced out of his office window at the Hansen Football Performance Center on Tuesday and recognized a familiar blue truck that belongs to one of the most distinguished Hawkeyes in recent memory.

“Old Blue,” as Ferentz refers to it, is Marshal Yanda’s truck, and it’s the same vehicle the former Hawkeye offensive lineman had during his time with the Iowa program from 2005-06.

“If that truck wasn’t out in the lot, he was either snowmobiling, fishing, out of town, otherwise he was down there training,” Ferentz said.

Yanda is in Iowa City this week for the 10th annual America Needs Farmers game, which is meant to recognize the importance of farmers in Iowa and across the country. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten player is the ninth recipient of ANF Wall of Honor recognition, which salutes former Iowa football players who exemplify the tenacity, work ethic, and character of the Iowa farmer.

The fifth-generation dairy farmer was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and since his retirement from a 13-year NFL career in 2020, he has helped his father on the family farm in Anamosa.

Yanda was drafted in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft after his Iowa career. He went on to play with the Baltimore Ravens at both guard and tackle at times on his way to eight Pro Bowl appearances, two first-team All-Pro nods, and a spot on the 2010s NFL All-Decade Team.

Experience as a farmer, Yanda said, was beneficial to his football career.

“When I was a kid, we were doing physical labor, which a lot of kids aren’t exposed to that,” Yanda said. “As a football player, I was pretty strong in the weight room, but people always talked about my farm strength. That natural strength, that core strength — that definitely came from the farm and being physically active every game.

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“I remember my dad milking the cows, and my dad had some guns back in the day from working on the farm.”

Yanda joined Ferentz’s program after playing two seasons at North Iowa Area Community College. Ferentz, an offensive line guru, initially planned to redshirt Yanda when he joined the program.

That changed pretty quickly.

“After about three days in practice that spring, I was like, ‘This guy is our best lineman right now,’” Ferentz said. “Took that long to figure it out.”

After his standout Hawkeye career, Yanda would often return to Iowa City in the offseason to workout because he preferred that to training on his own. Current Iowa center Tyler Linerbaum remembers seeing Yanda in the weight room during his freshman season in 2018 and the impression that made on him.

“He was always working out here,” Linderbaum said. “Watching his work ethic and how he attacked every day — it’s something for us to look up to.”

Yanda retired because he didn’t want to risk playing another season and getting injured.

The final two seasons of Yanda’s professional career were injury-free, and Yanda said he’d never gone three seasons in a row in the NFL without getting hurt. Not wanting to risk going through any sort of rehab again, Yanda chose to retire.

Yanda still misses playing on Sundays, even if it was against J.J. Watt or Aaron Donald, who he said were the toughest defensive linemen he ever had to block. Since his retirement, Yanda has dropped 65 pounds. He has spent the past week harvesting with his father, and spends most of his free time outdoors with his wife and three children.

The 2012 Super Bowl champion is in town ahead of No. 3 Iowa’s top-five showdown with No. 4 Penn State. Yanda’s advice for the current Hawkeye team heading into such a big game is to not let the hype be too much.

“The biggest thing is to make sure you’re not making this game any bigger than another game on the schedule,” Yanda said. “Just take things one game at a time, one day at a time.”

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