Friday, January 14, 2011

Yanda playing at all-pro level as Ravens prep for Steelers


January 13, 2011

When the season is over and Marshal Yanda kicks his feet up he’ll be able to put things in perspective.

In the midst of a playoff run with the Baltimore Ravens, the starting right tackle and former NIACC and Iowa standout doesn’t have a whole lot of time to deal with things that don’t include a blueprint on how to block Pittsburgh’s fearsome pass rushers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

“It’s one of those things where you keep your head down, keep focused on the things you can control, give great effort and stay out of trouble,” Yanda said Thursday, two days before the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh for an AFC divisional playoff game.

He insists he’s not focused on individual accolades but he’d be lying if he told you he isn’t aware of how well he’s performed this year.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder moved to right tackle this year and at the midway point of the year he was named to Sports Illustrated’s all-pro team. He was one of three Ravens named to the team.

Text messages from buddies around the country commenced.

“As far as that goes, putting all-pro next to my name, midseason or not, is awesome,” Yanda said. “It’s an honor, of course, but it’s like ‘hey, we’ve got 10 games left.’ It will be neat to look back on when the season is over but it was right back to the grindstone.”

Said SI’s Peter King this season, “His opening-day shift from right guard to right tackle has been a godsend for Baltimore; the fourth-year veteran helps keep Joe Flacco clean.”

That is what Yanda takes the most pride in. That, and starting all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Going into this year, Yanda, who could be on the verge of a big payday (he has a one-year, $1.68 million deal), said his objective was to be dependable and to be “counted on to get the job done.”

Thus far he’s done it but he’s reluctant to let his opposition know.

Yanda isn’t a big trash talker. Maybe that comes from his upbringing in Anamosa.

“I kind of was a guy that did a lot of that at Iowa and in junior college,” he said with a laugh. “I‘m a guy that’s locked into the play that is called. We play some teams that won’t shut up. It drives you nuts. Playing the Steelers, those guys shut up and just show you what they got. Except for those DBs (defensive backs). All the DBs are always yapping.”

On Saturday, though, it’s all business in a game that has become one of the best rivalries in the NFL.

He calls Harrison, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Woodley the best pass-rushing tandem in football.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for those guys,” Yanda said. “They are relentless. You respect them but when the ball is snapped I’m trying to kick their ass.”

And respect is what Yanda has for his past.

He recognizes that his time in Mason City was beneficial. That aided him in getting to the one place he dreamed of playing — the University of Iowa.

Growing up, Yanda didn’t have a favorite NFL team.

He bled black and gold. He still bleeds black, but now there’s some purple in there, too.

“It’s been a journey, and it’s been a great one,” Yanda said. “But it’s not done yet. I’m very fortunate to get this far and I’m having a blast playing football for a living. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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