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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Yates’ experience helps Arizona football in more ways than one

Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics
Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates passes the ball during a practice on Sunday, Aug. 14 in Tucson, Ariz.

You don’t always have to walk a mile in another man’s shoes to know where he has been. Sometimes, you can see the journey in his eyes. In the case of Marcel Yates, Arizona defensive coordinator, the recent experience of Zach Hemmila passing away unexpectedly brought back dark memories of a similar tragedy when he was a defensive linemen at Boise State University.

Paul Reyna was an incoming freshmen on the Broncos’ football team in 1999. He tripped and hit his head on the turf during a two-a-day summer practice on Aug. 18, 1999.

“He started complaining of headaches and went over to the sideline,” Yates said. “Next thing we know, the ambulance came and rushed him off to the hospital.”

Reyna had suffered an injury in the form of a blood clot caused by a torn blood vessel between his brain and skull. The hemorrhaging from the blood vessel developed into a blood clot, sending Paul into a coma for five days, according to

Reyna would pass away six days later on Aug. 23, 1999, at the age of 19.

Interviewing Yates about football seemed trivial compared to the real-life tragedies. He speaks with emotion and reservation, all while keeping his professional demeanor.

“It happened to me when I was a player at Boise State. [Hemmila’s death] brought back those days,” Yates said. “To see the pain that his parents were going through and that his brothers here with the football team were going through, it just brought back all that pain from years ago.”

Yates had been through it before, but that doesn’t mean he was numb to the situation.

Related: Seasoned Barton a welcome addition to Arizona football.

When speaking on Hemmila, Yates mentioned how he needed to have a tough exterior for the team when he spoke about how that wall came crumbling down.

“For me, I was just trying to hold strong for the guys, but I lost it when I saw his mom and dad. When I saw his mom, it hit me hard,” Yates said. “I just hugged her and wiped away my tears; it was tough”.

Yates is helping this team rebound after a tough season defensively last year. More importantly, his contribution to this team comes in an unfortunate twist of fate that has enabled him to display how to be strong, love your brothers and most importantly, embrace everything life has to offer.

Yates carries himself confidently and has a type of strength about him that only the tested have. Knowing tragedy and seeing it first-hand isn’t enviable. Yates has a heavy load on his shoulders to help this team get past obstacles both on the field and off, but with his way about life and the experiences of his past, you couldn’t find a better man to help lead these men into the season.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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