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November 29, 2012

A rare breed

As someone who plays both guard and tackle for the Stanford football team, David Yankey is a rare breed. Few players can shift positions on the offensive line week to-week, let alone play-to-play like Yankey does for the Cardinal.

The fact that he juggled multiple positions and still played at a level to be named to the American Football Coaches Association All-American team speaks volumes. Stanford coach David Shaw hasn't seen as unique a season since the early 1990s when his Stanford teammate, Chris Dalman, played all five positions on the line.

Shaw sees a lot of parallels between Yankey and Dalman, who played seven years in the NFL after his time on The Farm was over. It's only a matter of time before Yankey is playing on Sundays too, but at what position remains to be seen.

"Probably guard, but the fact that he can play both -- and I mean he can play both at the next level -- only makes him more valuable because if you have a guard and the tackle gets hurt and your staring guard is better than your starting tackle, you can but him out to tackle and you don't miss a beat," Shaw said. "He's the kind of guy that can handle it mentally and physically."

Yankey and the coaching staff both expected him to be a tackle when he arrived, but that changed in training camp last year when it was clear he was the best option at the vacant left guard spot. The result was a freshman All-American season.

"I think it's really cool, definitely," Yankey said. "We kind of lucked into it last year when I ended up playing guard, when I had played tackle before."

Preparing to play both guard and tackle -- and even at tight end on occasion -- seems like a daunting task, but Yankey brushed aside the idea that it's all that impressive.

"We emphasize a full comprehensive knowledge of the playbook as an offensive lineman because you never know where you'll end up," Yankey said. "You really have to know what's going on everywhere. We like to work as a unit and that's the big thing we like to focus on. Everyone knows all the positions."

It's unlikely anyone else on the line can move seamlessly from position like Yankey, but he's too modest too admit as much.

WIth a second season as a starter near fully complete, Yankey has helped further the legacy of the offensive linemen before him.

Each game, the plan remains the same: "We want to go and physically dominate our opponent every week. That's part of the Stanford offensive line mantra, that's what we want to be all about every week."

And just about every week that's what happens.


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