Long journey leads Yankey to Vikings

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The test was not going to be difficult. David Yankey had taken enough U.S. history classes growing up in Roswell, Georgia, that he had little trepidation about his ability to pass an American citizenship exam. There would be a different set of emotions when he sat down to take the test this spring.

There would be pride, from having completed a journey that meant so much to his Ghanaian-born father, David, Sr. There would be a sense of community, from joining his mother and his two younger brothers as citizens of a country his family had moved to when Yankey was 8-years old. And there would be wistfulness, from imagining how happy his dad would be to see him now, a full-fledged American about to graduate from Stanford University and begin a career in the NFL.

"He loved football, and he would have loved to see that, as well," Yankey said. "But I think he would have been ecstatic to see me graduate."

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's David Yankey
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallDavid Yankey, who became a U.S. citizen earlier this year, was born outside of Sydney, Australia, to a father from Ghana and a mother from Czechoslovakia.
Yankey has made it now, becoming a U.S. citizen two weeks after the Vikings selected him in the fifth round of the NFL draft and two weeks before he graduated from Stanford. He's been called a possible steal in the draft, after some projections had him going in the second or third round, and he could eventually push Charlie Johnson for the starting left guard job. He's arrived in Minnesota, as the next stop on a rich journey that took Yankey from Australia to Georgia, then to California. His dad, though, won't be there to see what comes next. David Yankey, Sr., passed away last fall, from causes that aren't completely clear. He'd had some heart issues in the past, but had gotten himself in better shape before his unexpected death last fall.

His legacy, though, includes a son who's made his family proud.

David Yankey, Jr., was born just outside of Sydney, to a father who'd followed his brothers from Ghana to Australia for work with a foresting company and a mother who'd escaped Communist rule with her family in Czechoslovakia. They met and married in Australia, and David Yankey, Jr., grew up as the oldest of three boys, in a house crackling with linguistic diversity.

Yankey never learned any of the tribal dialects his father spoke, but his parents told him he was fluent in Slovak as a toddler. "I eventually refused to speak it, for some reason," Yankey said. "I think it was just before I could have really maintained it and kept remembering it, unfortunately."

English was the language both of his parents knew, and became the common tongue of his family. But Yankey, who lived in Australia and the Deep South, somehow didn't wind up with an accent from either place.

His family moved to the United States in 2000, when his father took a job as an IT professional. "He'd always wanted to come to the States," Yankey said. "It was always kind of a dream of his, especially growing up in Africa."

And now that he's a citizen, Yankey finds himself even more at home in the U.S. He'd always rooted for Australia during the World Cup, and nervously refrained from taking a side in the Ghana-U.S. matches during the 2006 and 2010 tournaments. But this year, after he'd become a citizen, Yankey proudly supported the U.S. team during its group stage victory over Ghana last month.

Even Minnesota has a familial feel for him. He played with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson's son, Nick, at Stanford, and Jeff Davidson's May trip to the West Coast allowed him to both visit his son and work with Yankey, who couldn't attend the Vikings' organized team activities until Stanford's classes concluded in June.

Yankey said he's happy among a veteran group of linemen, who have played together under Davidson for three seasons and combined to start 157 out of a possible 160 regular-season games the past two seasons.

"Minnesota, I think, was a really awesome place for me to end up," Yankey said. "These guys, they know so much, they do the right things, they're all pros."

His latest stop, so far, feels like a rewarding destination. And Yankey will carry with him the man who put him on his journey in the first place.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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