Yarborough is a Man on a Mission

Losing a parent is almost always a life-changing event for the children who they leave behind. There are some who will have a difficult time processing the loss and it will take a long time to come to terms. Others will be determined to use the tragedy to redefine their lives and be more determined than ever to accomplish everything that they can in the memory of a lost parent.

On Sunday, August 1, Navy's Billy Yarborough's dad, William, died of heart failure– four days before his son was about to kick-off what would most likely be the best year of his life. As a senior for the Midshipmen, Yarborough had waited patiently over the last three years for his chance to start at defensive end for the highly-successful football team. And this fall, his opportunity had come. But regardless of how this season goes, it was going to be a great year because a few months after playing his last down of college football, Yarborough will be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps – fulfilling a lifelong dream for the Columbia, South Carolina native.

It took this reporter about a minute of meeting and talking with the daunting 6'5", 240 pound midshipman to realize that the recent loss of his dad had made this young man more determined than ever to be successful in football and in life. If ever there was a man on mission – it's Billy Yarborough.  

"My dad was my best friend – my biggest hero – my biggest idol. Everything that I am is because of my father," said Yarborough.

"I remember in years past after practices and games, the first person I talked to was my dad. I would tell him how things were going and relate to his days as a player. He was a hard-nosed man. He would always have good advice for me. He always had something positive to say and I always leaned on him when times got tougher. So when I am playing this year, it will be way more than just a game. I'm playing for him every day."

Billy's dad was a defensive lineman, just like his son, while attending Lancaster High School in South Carolina. Voted the team's most outstanding lineman as a senior, William Yarborough went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force and later worked as an electronics technician for the Bose Corporation.

"He was just a hardnosed man – a blue collar man. He never complained. He worked several jobs. He looked out for his family. He always put his children and his wife before himself," said Yarborough.

After hearing the news of his dad's passing on that Sunday, Yarborough quickly reached out to his other family in Annapolis.

"The first person I called on the Naval Academy side of things was (defensive line) coach (Dale) Pehrson. He and I are close and he's been my position coach since I got here. He knows me pretty well. And he knows that this was a big deal…obviously. He made sure that I took the time I needed with my family. The same thing is true with (head) coach (Ken) Niumatalolo. He wanted me to know that my family was in his prayers. They took good care of me from the beginning."

"I have had tremendous support all the way from the coaching staff to my friends here on the team. They that treat me like family," continued Yarborough. "This is my family away from home. And my brothers here have taken really good care of me…I have had constant support from everybody here at the Naval Academy, football and outside of football…just great support."

When asked about the importance of Yarborough to the team, Navy's third-year head coach didn't hesitate to point out one of the senior's most important characteristics.

"Billy is one of the leaders of this team. If there was a phrase that sums him up, it's ‘all in.' Billy Yarborough defines the phrase ‘all-in'", said Niumatalolo.

Navy will look to Yarborough to be ‘all-in' on a lot of plays this season as he takes on the difficult task of trying to maneuver past offensive linemen who outweigh him each week by at least 50 pounds. And although it will be his first year starting full-time, Yarborough got a good taste of life in the trenches last year.

The History major at the Academy played in all 14 games including Navy's impressive 34-13 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl. That game was one of his best as he recorded three tackles, half a sack, and caused one of the three Tigers' turnovers.

Now, after spending two seasons behind the departed Matt Nechak, it is Yarborough's time to do his part every week. Fortunately for him, he will have plenty of help as the Mids have experience amongst its starters up front on the defense. On the opposite end of Yarborough is junior standout Jabaree Tuani, who has been a starter since arriving in Annapolis.

"Jabaree is a year younger than me and I can learn from him every day. It doesn't matter that he is a junior and I am a senior. He just has great feet movement, hand placement and the ability to take on double teams. I can learn from him just like he can learn from for me on certain things," said Yarborough.

Joining Yarborough and Tuani on the defensive line are senior nose tackles Shane Bothel and Chase Burge.

"Those guys work as hard (at nose tackle) as anybody out here. We push each other to get to the next level.  We hope to be a strength for the team. We just have to continue to work because I know if I come out and don't work as hard as I possibly can in practice every day than the people below me aren't going to work to get better either. So I have to bust my butt every single day to get better so we can be successful on Saturdays," said Yarborough.

Regardless of how the season turns out for Yarborough, he is ready to turn the unthinkable tragedy of losing his dad into something positive.

"He was my biggest fan and I was his biggest fan. I am absolutely dedicating this season to him. I am going to play every snap as hard as I can just for my dad."


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