On Saturday March 23 some of the NFL’s most exemplary players gathered in Baltimore for the 41st annual Ed Block Courage Awards. Among the recipients in attendance was Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda.

Every year the Ed Block Courage Awards recognize the players around the league who show bravery and determination in the face of adversity while also representing core values of the game like sportsmanship and professionalism.

Unlike other NFL honors and awards, the Ed Block Courage Awards holds a special significance since the recipients are elected by their peers. Each team takes the time to vote and nominate one of their own for the prestigious award. Many of this year’s recipients were able to make the trip out to Baltimore for a weeks worth of events. Yanda was joined in attendance by many players including Ryan Shazier, Dee Ford, Zach Miller, and Jared Cook.

In the fall of 2018 Yanda’s teammates voted for him to be this year’s award recipient. The veteran guard went through a tough 2017 season that saw him sidelined after breaking his ankle in the Ravens week two game against Cleveland. “That was one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with in a long time,” said Yanda. “I broke my ankle and had some ligament damage so I was done. There was no fighting through the injury.”

Playing through a broken ankle may be impossible but don’t put it past Yanda to try. The grizzled veteran has done everything he can to stay on the field throughout his career, even if that means playing through injuries. In 2016 he suffered a shoulder tear that had a significant impact on his ability to perform but Yanda was able to move to left guard, where he still had some leverage, instead of sitting out. Even after breaking his ankle Yanda still walked off the field to the sideline under his own power.

For Yanda, missing a majority of the 2017 season wasn’t enjoyable but it did give him plenty of time to rehab before 2018 rolled around. At the turn of the new year Yanda appeared to be on track for a healthy return in 2018. That was until he re-aggravated his shoulder while lifting weights in February. The injury ended up requiring surgery, his second in the span of six months, and Yanda was set back once again.

“It was a punch to the gut but I knew I still had a lot left that I wanted to prove.”

As demoralizing as the shoulder injury was, it was fortunate that it took place in the offseason. His previously mentioned shoulder tear in 2016 left him at less than 100% while suiting up every Sunday. This time Yanda was able to undergo surgery without hesitation, knowing he had months to heal before training camp was set to begin.

In the end, these setbacks were worth it as Yanda started a full 16 games for the first time since 2015. “I love this game so I had a lot of motivation to attack my rehab,” said Yanda. “And I was rewarded. I got to play every snap last year, besides one, and I didn’t feel any pain.”

Being able to suit up is one thing but playing at a high level as well is even greater. Yanda did just that in 2018, leading the way up front for the Ravens new and improved run game. His bounce-back season was also recognized by fans, coaches, and players around the league who helped elect him to the seventh Pro Bowl of his career.

Image credit: Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun