OWINGS MILLS, Md. — He made his first Pro Bowl appearance in January, closed on a house in Marion in May, has a second child on the way and is getting ready for his sixth season in the National Football League.
It might be easy for Marshal Yanda, a graduate of Anamosa High School, to become comfortable as an offensive guard/tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. But that is not the case for the former Iowa standout, whose team beat Atlanta, 31-18, in its first preseason game Thursday at Atlanta.
“Even though I made the Pro Bowl that doesn’t change my approach,” Yanda said after a recent practice in suburban Baltimore County. “I am not taking the foot off the pedal as far as becoming a great player. There are things in my game I can get better at. I need to take the right approach day-by-day and get better as a player and teammate and keep moving forward.”
The Ravens, who open the regular-season at home Sept. 10 against Cincinnati, are the only team in the NFL who have made the playoffs each of the past four years. Baltimore just missed a trip to the Super Bowl with a loss to New England, 23-20, in the AFC championship game in January.
“That is behind us now. That was a really tough loss to swallow,” said Yanda, listed at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. “We know what we have to do. We still have a damn good football team. That (game) is in our rearview (mirror). We want to finish those plays. We just came up a couple plays short. That is how it goes. You can’t win them all. We are past it now and looking forward to this year.”
A consolation of sorts for Yanda, who turns 28 in September and was drafted by the Ravens in 2007, was his first trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in late January with his wife and extended family.
“It was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life, to go out there and be around the best in the game,” he said. “It was a very humbling and awesome experience. I was like a kid in a candy store. We would go to the dinner table and there is Drew Brees. We were like two kids.”
He and his wife, who have one child and the other due in October, had never been to Hawaii and were able to visit Pearl Harbor and other sites.
Yanda was among 17 people, mostly family members, who made the trip to Hawaii. He footed the bill of $25,000.
“It was a wash since we won the game,” said Yanda, who got $25,000 for being part of the winning team. “It was perfect.”
Yanda, who played at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City before heading to Iowa, said he took suggestions from some of his Baltimore teammates who had been to Pro Bowl games about making the most of the opportunity.
“I took the advice of the older guys. You never know. You could blow a knee” and never make another Pro Bowl, he said.
He made four fishing trips to Canada before reporting to camp with the Ravens. And Yanda continued to work out this summer under Hawkeye strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle in Iowa City.
Yanda is not the only Ravens player with ties to Iowa. Veteran field goal kicker Billy Cundiff is from Harlan and played at Drake, safety Sean Considine played at Iowa and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele was a second-round draft pick this year from Iowa State.
“He definitely flashes the necessary tools to be able to play in this league,” Yanda said of Osemele. “His head is spinning a little bit, as all rookies do at that time. It is still early. He works hard, he wants to get it. He looks very promising.”
Osemele, an All-American at ISU, gives Yanda a lot of credit for helping him make the transition to the NFL.
“It has been invaluable the experience he brings to the table,” Osemele said. “It is remarkable because he was in the same position (six years ago). He has been there and done that. He is a successful guy and he knows how to play the right way.”
Yanda said he can only get better as a veteran. “You definitely know what to expect. You gain more and more experience every year,” Yanda said.