It’s always fun watching the development of those I’ve covered at the high school level once they’ve finished their playing career and started the game of life. One player I had the chance to cover was former Fairborn (Ohio) quarterback Nico Yantko. While Yantko may not have approved of my evaluation of what level he’d play college football at, he was always one I cheered for as he worked his way through college football and into his life’s work.
While at Fairborn, Yantkko was known for his long hair and not allowing his physical stature to hold him back, passing for 2,600 yards and 29 touchdowns to lead Fairborn to a 7-3 record in 2004.
While big school programs didn’t come calling, Yantko found a home at the University of Tennessee-Martin, where he redshirted. However, soon after, a coaching change at UT Martin and coaches not seeing his quarterback skill set found Yantko looking for a new home. Yantko would head to Iowa Central Community College but would find more adversity when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament missing another season.
With the coach who recruited him at UT Martin, now at Murray State, 2007 found Yantko with the start he’d been looking for and time on the field playing in six games with big plans ahead. Yet, adversity was there again as Yantko would tear his other ACL against Indiana after a solid start to his season. While the injury would have Yantko doubting how much longer he wanted to play the game, he knew the ultimate goal was to trade his body for as much education as possible.
While Yantko would return to the field after his second injury, it’s what he’s done since the end of his playing days that has him still involved in college athletics. After playing at Murray State from 2007-2009, Yantko started on the coaching side, becoming a graduate assistant in 2010. However, soon, he’d make a move into athletic operations and has worked his way up with stops at North Carolina State, Missouri, and most recently at the University of Louisiana, where he led record-setting fundraising efforts and oversaw Sun Belt Conference Championships in men’s and women’s basketball and football.
Yantko will return to his college roots, having been named the 10th athletics director in Murray State University history this week. According to the press release by Murray State, Yantko is hugely excited about the move.
“To be named the next Athletics Director at Murray State is a dream come true,” said Yantko. “This opportunity is unbelievably humbling, considering how much this institution and what it stands for means to me and so many others. I cannot thank Dr. Jackson and the rest of our university leadership enough for the chance to return home. Murray State has been built on relationships, and with every special moment we share together, we will continue to build and advance the Racers’ tradition of excellence. There is no higher honor than to serve my alma mater in this role, and Marnie and I cannot think of a better place to raise our family.”
Congratulations, Nico, and all the best to you and your family on this next chapter of your life and career.