This Sunday against the Denver Broncos Eddie Yarbrough Jr. will face his former team, the team that cut him and put his NFL career in doubt. Yarbrough is one of the most persevering 24-year-olds you'll meet. From being kicked to the streets by his hometown team, he's now sacking former MVP's for the Buffalo Bills.
Yarbrough is from Aurora, CO, and his high school is about a half an hour from Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. You could say it's pretty fitting his first NFL gig was with the Broncos. He went undrafted out of the University of Wyoming in 2016. Eventually he'd sign with Denver as a rookie. Wyoming's all-time leader in tackles for a loss (39) stuck with the team until the final day of cuts on September 2. He didn't sign with another team for the entire 2016 season.
"Last season at home on the couch and a lot of people said I should start looking for a job and use your degree. Instead I was working out every day, swimming, boxing, working out three times a day. And people were asking me then, 'Eddie why are you doing this? What is this for?' I knew then and I know now it was all for this moment," Yarbrough said.
His resilience has certainly been worthwhile. It also doesn't go without notice when a pass rusher sets a school record in tackles for loss. He made a huge impact at a small school for the Wyoming Cowboys. Yarbrough credits that school in the high plains for preparing him to compete at the highest level.
"One of the things all of my coaches at Wyoming taught me is, 'What have you done for me lately?' … How do you contribute, and you need to be consistent. A little Wyoming mantra, shout out to Coach Bohl, is that consistency breeds excellence. It's not you can have one good day or do this one day and oh you're the best in the world, you have to do it on a consistent basis… I definitely feel they prepared me for this moment," Yarbrough said.
With Buffalo's defensive line constantly rotating, he's getting a chance to live in the moment. In his first two regular season games he has tallied four tackles; the biggest of his NFL career came this Sunday when he brought down the 2015 MVP, Cam Newton. That would be Yarbrough's first career sack in the NFL.
"I took my steps, got off good, came to the side and everything immediately slowed down… and all of a sudden I hit him and everything's in slow motion and I get up. You go through all these scenarios in your head, like I'm going to do this I'm going to do a celebration but honestly I couldn't even feel my feet I was so excited. I was floating out there; all my teammates came and supported me, jumped on me and stuff. Definitely a special moment," Yarbrough said.
His milestone moment wasn't only special for him, but for his father also, Eddie Yarbrough Sr. The two share a special bond.
"I'm not going to tell you no lie, I almost cried… I was like 'oh my god that's my baby look at him'," said the elder Yarbrough.
Yarbrough's father paved the way for him. His dad has had the same message for his whole life.
"Eddie has turned into a man that his daddy never lied to. I always told him the truth… I never lied to him. I told him if you didn't do good, you didn't do good… I was his hero first and then he became my hero," Yarbrough's father said. "He listened. He never was a bad kid, he never wanted to be in trouble. He always wanted to be perfect for his daddy. He went hunting with me, he fished with me. He did everything with me."
Talking with Yarbrough and his father, it was fascinating at how seamless their conversations were.
"My dad is my number one role model. He always knows what to say… such a service he did to me growing up, this is coming from the first time I stepped on a football field. My dad never sugarcoated anything and he never lied to me. He always let me know how it is and again that's such a service that he did for me," Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough Sr. has been there for the whole ride, even when his son was young and had aspirations of playing in the NFL. Yarbrough's father deserves a lot of credit for his son's success, but he was adamant* *to have Yarbrough's first coach mentioned in shaping his son.
"His first coach was named Bruce Reilly… he's passed on now, but Bruce Reilly was his first head coach and he had a lot to do with Eddie's personality," Yarbrough's father said.
Now Yarbrough is here, in Buffalo, thanks to Reilly and Yarbrough Sr. It's still going to take some time to set in for Yarbrough's father.
"It's almost like it's bigger than a dream. It's almost like a football angel or something, I don't know how to describe it. It still hasn't really soaked all the way in," said the eldest Yarbrough. "But to see him out there and I'm the first one to teach him the three-point stance, showed him how to swim and swat… oh my God I don't even know how to explain it. It's unbelievable man."
Yarbrough's father and mother still reside in Colorado. They'll make the trek to New Era Field this Sunday to watch their son in person play in an NFL regular season game.
"Oh yeah, the whole Yarbrough clan… words can't describe it. My mom, my dad, my two older sisters are going to come. My mom and dad still live in Denver, Colorado, today, and me being cut by Denver last year and being put on the street, having that opportunity to see them and have everything come full circle and seeing their son to play in the National Football League on a Sunday is going to be something special," Yarbrough said.
The fact that Yarbrough's parents live in Denver definitely brings an uncanny twist.
"He's going against the Broncos. With the Broncos I thought he had made the team and stuff. It's his hometown team and he's got a lot of people watching him and it's going to be great because he's going to try to be the best he can and that's all he can do," Yarbrough's father said.
For Yarbrough Sr., it's still a mystery why Yarbrough's hometown team let him go.
"I don't know why they didn't keep him. It's a God-given thing. God works in mysterious ways. He put Eddie where he needs to be. I'm just proud to have him be with the Buffalo Bills," the eldest Yarbrough said. "My brother-in-law played there many years back. The fan base and the way they treat their players is awesome man. They treat him like family, and that's the big thing."
Yarbrough comes from a blue-collar family, if you couldn't tell by his father's demeanor. That grit he was brought up with is something that translates well here in Buffalo.
"I'm so blessed to be a part of this organization… I love this town. Even just walking around, feeling the sense of buffalove mantra. Everybody just taking care of everybody, you see somebody broken down on the road, seven cars stop and help them. That doesn't happen everywhere…that's all you can ask for as a player. To play for a town, an organization, and a community like that," Yarbrough said.
The 6-3, 259-pound defensive end has found his home and a steady role in the NFL. Yarbrough has one message for Bills fans for when he steps out onto the field.
"For me, personally as a player, one of the things I try and build my game on is I'm going to give you every single thing I have… I'll go until my heart bursts," he said. "I will give you every ounce I have if it's running down the sideline, running 100 yards, kickoff returns, running until my toes bleed. I'm going to give you everything I have because that's what my dad taught me. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring, so you have to worry about today. I'm going to give you everything I have."