Yary Returns to Football As Hall Of Famer

Aug 3, 2001

AP Photos

By JOHN AKERS
AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Ron Yary left everything he had on the football field -and then he left the field in a hurry.

Few were as intense as the Minnesota Vikings' dominating offensive righttackle from 1968-81. Few were as eager to get away once the game or practicewas over.

'As far as football, he was gung ho,' coach Bud Grant said. 'Afterward,he was gone. Sometimes I didn't know if he even took a shower. He was justgone.'

Yary, 54, will be inducted Aug. 4 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame inCanton, Ohio.

Yary is looking forward to the day with nervous anticipation. As a youth, hesaid he chose football over basketball partly because it allowed him to hidebehind a helmet. Though his bust will remain enshrined in Canton, Yary himselfmight be gone quickly.

'It will be a momentary, short-fused connection with my past,' Yary said.'It will be good to get close to my past again.'

Yary, who lives in Southern California, balanced his professional andprivate sides well enough to be named a six-time All-Pro.

He couldn't have it both ways. He got away from football by working on hishouse, business interests or a collection of art and leatherbound books. On thefield, he had no outside interests.

'When I was there, I was all there,' Yary said. 'I wasn't there just alittle bit. I was intense - that's what they say. I didn't know I was intense.I wasn't introspective about football. That's what I thought you were supposedto be.'

Yary was involved in some classic meetings against the great defensive endsof his day, such as Jack Youngblood, Deacon Jones and Too Tall Jones. Some ofhis best bouts came in practice against Vikings teammate Carl Eller.

'That was epic,' said former Vikings tight end Stu Voigt, Yary's formerroommate. 'After a week against each other, the games were a piece of cake.'

Yary joined the Vikings as the first pick overall in the 1968 draft, a bonuspick acquired from the New York Giants in a trade involving Fran Tarkenton. Hewas a rangy 6-foot-6, 255 pounds. At Southern California, he won the OutlandTrophy as the nation's top collegiate lineman in 1967.

'If you saw him line up, if you just looked at him, he didn't seem like agreat physical specimen,' Grant said. 'He was big enough, tall enough, strongenough. But it's when he played that you said, 'Holy smokes, he just knockedthat man backwards.' Or in his pass protection, that his feet were too good.That's when you saw the real Ron Yary.'

Yary did not start in his first season with the Vikings. John Michels, hisoffensive line coach, recalled their fear of the hyper young player 'goingcompletely screwy out there.'

Yary, who seems still upset about it, thinks he made a poor impression inhis first weeks with the Vikings because he was turned around after preparingfor the College All-Stars annual exhibition against the Green Bay Packers. NormVan Brocklin, the College All-Star coach, ran the same offense as Grant'sexcept for the numbering system, Van Brocklin's odd-numbered plays went left,Grant's to the right.

Finally unleashed in 1969, Yary started in 150 consecutive games through1979. The stretch included four Super Bowls among a team-record 20 playoffgames.

'Ron, it's safe to say, was the best I played with,' Voigt said. 'He wasdominant.'

Yary says he always craved contact. Even as a 3-year-old, he thought it wasfun to jump off 10-foot decks onto sidewalks. Getting knocked down, he said,was as much fun as knocking someone down.

He tried to play professionally on the same emotional level. Yary said hebarely glanced at the weekly game plan and probably spent less than 45 minutesduring his career looking at playbooks. He wasn't technically sound, accordingto Michels, until his final five or six seasons.

He made up for it with his quiet, simmering intensity.

'You cannot believe how he got up for a football game,' Michels said.

That intensity led to Yary's departure from the Vikings in 1982. Upset by anarticle that said Minnesota was looking for a new right tackle, he demanded atrade and was sent to the Los Angeles Rams. He played one more season andretired. He called his departure the biggest mistake of his life.

Michels worried for years about how their relationship ended. Yet, a fewmonths ago, Yary asked him to be his presenter at the induction ceremonies.

'To me, it's the greatest compliment ever received,' Michels said. 'Thatjust floored me.'

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