STANFORD, Calif. -- David 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, Ga., from the Sydney suburbs in 2000. "I moved when I was only 8," 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."
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]."
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.
Playing both tackle and guard as a redshirt sophomore in 2012 didn't slow Yankey down. It is unusual for a player to shift from one position to another from week to week. Yankey did it from play to play, run or pass.
Against Oregon State last season, Yankey played six positions on the offensive line -- both tackles, both guards, and two different tight end spots. He not only made All-American, but he won the Morris Trophy, given to the best blocker in the Pacific-12 Conference as voted by opposing players.
Bloomgren said it's not merely Yankey's mental flexibility that makes him so talented.
"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," Bloomgren said. "He bends like Gumby. It's amazing. Oh my gosh ... we don't have anybody who can bend like him.
"He had a potential injury last year, when he got bent over a pile, and somebody's in the back of his legs. And it's one where you're watching it when you're grading [video] on Sunday, and I had to call him. Because I knew he walked off the field. He missed one play. I had to call him after seeing him on film. 'Are you sure you're OK? Do you need to come in here?' He said, 'No, coach. It's a little sore.'"
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.