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A letterman for the Cavaliers in 1956 and 1957, Nelson Yarbrough was a man of many hats for the Cavalier football squad. He was the starting quarterback, as well as a cornerback and the punter.

“Everybody did that, though,” he says about his multiple roles. “You had to be solid on both sides of the ball, otherwise you didn’t play.”

After graduating in 1959, Yarbrough enlisted in the military and spent two years as a player/coach for a team in France. A shoulder injury eventually sidelined him and a different career path was forged: dentistry.

Yarbrough attended Medical College of Virginia and then he and his wife, Sandra, also a dentist, found two openings at the UVA hospital before entering private practice in 1972. They made their home in Charlottesville, stayed connected to the school and program, and before long, Yarbrough—alongside Andy Selfridge and Dick Fogg—resurrected the Virginia Football Alumni Club. Yarbrough faithfully served for many years as President.

Yarbrough credits his time as a player with instilling lasting lessons that continued to shape him long after graduation.

“When you play a sport at a major college level, it gives you a certain amount of toughness that helps you in anything that you do in life. It prepares you for the worst of times so that you can stand up to just about anything. The biggest thing, though, is the friendships that you made that last for a lifetime. My closest friends after 40 years are still the guys I played ball with. As you get older, you appreciate how much your school meant to you, and I’ve always felt like you should give something back to the University.”

It’s that spirit that guided Yabrough in his work with the Alumni Club, noting, too, how certain lessons and experiences transcend generations:

“Having been here for so long, I’ve gotten to know so many of the players over the years. I’ve even seen a lot of them as patients, and when it was within the rules, we used to have players at our house for Thanksgiving…. we learned that it didn’t make any difference whether you were 22, 32, 42, or 62, we all enjoyed the same things, and the locker room talk hadn’t changed.”

Nelson Yarbrough

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