Stanford University Cardinal
Centennial High School
Some might consider Yankey to be a guard trapped in a tackle's body. Unlike most interior blockers who rely on finesse and lateral quickness to lead the charge into the second level. With Yankey, you see a classic mauler type, typically taking big arm swipes to wear down and batter his opponent. You also see a guard with the athleticism to stalk linebackers a deliver the emphatic cut block.
With those qualities, it is evident why the Cardinal is considered the best drive blocker at his position in this draft class. Do not be fooled by his pedestrian-like 40-yard dash time — Yankey has more than enough burst to get out in front when pulling and trapping. He strikes with tremendous force and with his bone-jarring hand punch, he has been highly effective at executing the knockdown blocks, closing out his career with an average of 8.45 pancakes per game.
"David's ability to [perform] the dominating blocks, creating power in space, and being such a solid pass protector, so much of that comes from ability to bend. He bends like Gumby. It's amazing," Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said.
Yankey, the All-American who isn't quite all American, has made a life of taking on dual roles. As the Australian-born son of a Ghanian father and a Slovakian mother, the Stanford guard began adjusting to the unfamiliar long ago. His parents, David and Darina, moved their three boys to Roswell, Georgia, from the Sydney suburbs in 2000. "I moved when I was only eight," David Jr., said, "so I didn't really get an Australian accent. But I didn't get a southern accent, either - missed out on both cool accents."
Yankey was a late bloomer on the offensive line, weighing just 240-pounds as a junior at Centennial High School. He underwent a growth spurt prior to the 2009 season and by the time he joined the Stanford Cardinal as a true freshman, he measured in at 295 pounds.
Yankey was rated the 44th-best offensive tackle in the nation and received a three-star recruit grade from Scout.com during his senior season at Centennial High. The four-time gridiron letter-winner was a three-time All-Region choice and was an All-State honorable mention his final season. He was also the recipient of the Roswell Excalibur Award honoring excellence in athletics and leadership.
Leaving the Deep South to attend college on the West Coast didn't faze Yankey. Being flattened in his first Stanford summer workout by defensive lineman Geoff Meinken didn't slow him down, even if it embarrassed him in front of his new teammates.
"And then comes the first padded practice," said former Stanford center Sam Schwartzstein, who played next to Yankey for two seasons, "and Yankey just explodes through somebody in the Oklahoma drill. We all look at each other like, 'Who is this kid? Is this the same kid we just wrote off?' Within a week, he worked himself up to the twos [second-team]."
Yankey's first season at Stanford ended almost as quickly as it began, as he was injured in the Cardinal's second game vs. UCLA and was lost for the rest of the schedule. Prior to the injury, he had become the first true freshman to play on Stanford's front wall since 2000.
The following season, Yankey took over left guard duties, forming a punishing tandem with All-American right guard David DeCastro. He was named Freshman All-American and received All-Pac 12 Conference recognition after posting 102 knockdowns while helping the offense rank eighth in the nation with an average of 489.31 yards per game. He was also part of a front wall that yielded just 11 sacks, the seventh-fewest total in the nation.
That first year did not start off as well as it finished, though. Moving from tackle to guard shortly before his redshirt freshman season began, Yankey played so poorly at the outset that franchise quarterback Andrew Luck got knocked down several times at Duke. Then-athletic director Bob Bowlsby attended offensive line meetings to assess the problem himself. By season's end, Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said, Yankey played as well as tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro, both of whom would become All-Americans.
With Jonathan Martin having graduated, Yankey was shifted to left tackle for his sophomore season. He would become a consensus All-American, delivering 17 touchdown-resulting blocks while starting all 14 contests. He played all positions, but center, up front and was also utilized at times as a wing-back and tight end. He graded 86% for blocking consistency and was charged with just one of the team's 19 sacks, as the Cardinal attempted 399 throws.
In 2013, Yankey returned to left guard, with sophomore sensation Andrus Peat taking over at left tackle. The duo would form what many regarded to be the most dominant blocking tandem in college, as they combined to deliver 28 touchdown-resulting blocks for the ground game alone. Stanford scored 30 times with their ball carriers last season. He did not allow any of the team's 16 sacks while starting 13 contests.
Yankey did sit out the Washington State clash, returning home to Georgia to attend his father's funeral. David Famiye Yankey died at age fifty-four. "He'd had an issue, an incident, I don't think it was a heart attack, my senior year of high school," Yankey said of his father, who was an IT professional. "But at that point, he was pretty overweight. He lost like 50 pounds and had been doing a lot better. He had seen a cardiologist a month and a half before and everything was going well. It was very sudden and was unexpected."
The only thing as difficult as receiving the shock of the news, Yankey said, was "just from an emotional standpoint, having to say goodbye to my mom at the airport and get back on the plane. That was pretty tough." Whatever doubts Yankey had about leaving his mother and his two high-school age brothers, Alexander and Jerome, were no match for the maternal insistence that he miss no more classes. He understands, at one level, how much easier it is not to be home.
"It's tough being away from them," he said. "They feel it. All the time. I'm in football. I've got my schedule busy all the time, traveling up til now. But they are doing pretty well, finding a new normal. You can't ever really get back to how things were. My mom has really been strong through all of this. She has gotten a lot of support from the community, which has been awesome."
Two of his college buddies at the University of Georgia came home for a weekend to stay with David's brothers so Darina could fly west and see her oldest play in the Big Game, a 63-13 Cardinal rout. The responsibilities of a son and older brother must remain secondary, as long as Yankey wants a job playing professional football, an industry where he has no say about where he will work.
The team captain played with a "heavy heart" the rest of the year, taking some solace in the slew of postseason honors he received. He was a unanimous All-American, just the eighth player in school history to accomplish that feat and the first two-time All-American at the university since Bob Whitfield (1990-91). He was a semi-finalist for both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award and received All-Pac 12 Conference accolades for the third-straight season.
After Stanford's tough loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, the junior guard had another tough decision to make – should I stay or should I go? Yankey, because of an injury he suffered early in his freshman year, had the option to play a fifth year at Stanford. He submitted his paperwork to the NFL to see where the scouts think he will be drafted.
"Getting honest evaluation, and depending on that, we'll see where it goes," he said.
The son also referred to a picture he has of his father, David Yankey Sr., holding a glass of champagne in hand, celebrating the day he became a U.S. citizen. The family had planned to do so together. Academics and football made David Jr., put it on hold. He intended to take his citizenship test this fall. Why not? He had all the time in the world. "I didn't talk to him about it," Yankey said of his father's naturalization, "but it did mean a lot to him, after working here for so long. He was really eager for me to do it as well."
When his father passed away last September, Yankey found out, as we all do at a certain age, that we don't have all the time in the world. He intends to take the citizenship test this year. First, it was decision time. In mid-January, Yankey decided to leave school and enter the 2014 draft, releasing a statement that said, "The decision was not easy. I have loved my time at Stanford and am a proud member of Nerd Nation. I am humbled at the prospect of joining a long list of Stanford alumni currently playing in the NFL.
"I want to thank everyone at Stanford for their unwavering support throughout my four years. Coming here was an incredible opportunity and everyone on campus - from professors and coaches to support staff and fans - have demonstrated why this place is so special."
Yankey started all but the first two of the 42 games he appeared in for Stanford, lining up at left guard for 26 of those starting assignments and at left tackle in the 14 others…Finished with an average of 8.45 knockdowns (338) and 1.3 touchdown-resulting blocks (52) while in the starting lineup.