LARAMIE, Wyoming — Five years ago, Eddie Yarbrough envisioned himself atop Wyoming's career tackles for loss chart.
A lofty goal, but not a cocky one.
"Coming in as a (true) freshman, I always said I never want to be second-best," Yarbrough said. "I always want to be the best at everything I do. That could be ping-pong, that could be checkers, and even football. Coming in, I always knew that I wanted to submit myself as far as leaving a legacy and putting myself in history and the record books at the university."
With one game left in his college career, Yarbrough has accomplished that feat.
Against San Diego State on Saturday, the senior defensive end sacked Aztecs quarterback Maxwell Smith in the first quarter, giving him 37 career tackles for loss, one more than the previous school record held by John Fletcher (2005-09).
"He's had a great run," UW defensive ends coach AJ Cooper said. "He's certainly had a lot of production over his career here. I was really happy for him that he was able to break that record. I know he'd trade all those numbers in for more victories — especially going through what he's went through this year, grinding through adversity, not winning games."
As a sophomore in 2013, Yarbrough turned in career numbers of 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
Since then, he's had to overcome several obstacles — from a numbers standpoint — to break the career record.
With UW coach Craig Bohl's slower tempo, the Pokes' defense has played fewer snaps.
"Since (Bohl's) been here, really the most snaps he's played is 65-70 snaps," Cooper said. "In comparison, in the past, I think he was playing upward of 90 or 100 snaps a game."
In addition, stopping Yarbrough has become opponents' top priority.
"These last two years, and even a little bit toward the end of my sophomore year, it's different because now teams are game-planning you," said Yarbrough, a two-time selection to the All-Mountain West Conference first team. "So now they're like, 'Hey, we're going to run away from 55. Let's double-team him and then give him a triple-team with a chip.' It's a respect thing, so I like the respect aspect of it, but at the same time it is a daunting task."
He's still found ways to be productive, registering 10.5 tackles for loss, including 4.0 sacks, last season; and 7.0 tackles for loss, including 4.0 sacks, this year.
UW defensive coordinator Steve Stanard credits Yarbrough's motor, noting that, 'You almost never see him not going 100 miles an hour."
Yarbrough's reputation has made its way into the NFL scouting circles, with scouts from at least 20 NFL teams visiting Laramie for UW practices.
What they're finding is that Yarbrough is the "complete package," Cooper said.
"The No. 1 thing ... is they're looking for talented players," Cooper added, "but they want to know the same things we want to know when we're recruiting here: How hard does he work? How important is football to him? What type of young man is he to work with? How well does he learn things? In Eddie's case, we're able to say, 'Hey, don't worry about the film. I can tell you he's a great young man. He's going to work his butt off and he loves to play football.'"
After UW's bye week, Yarbrough has one final chance to compete as a Wyoming Cowboy.
He's looking to enjoy that last game.
The career-tackles-for-loss monkey is off his back, and the pressure is gone.
"I feel like going into this last game, I know that one game isn't going to make or break anything that I've done so far, so I'm going into it care-free in a sense. And I got the record. It would've been a little more high-maintenance if I had to get one more going into this last game," Yarbrough said with a laugh. "... For the most part, all the heavy lifting's done. I've kind of got to let it work itself out."
Since he redshirted out of high school, Yarbrough is on track to graduate next month.
After that, he plans to work out in a warmer area — "either San Diego , Arizona, Florida or Texas," he said — to prepare for the NFL Combine. He hopes he'll receive an invitation to one of the senior bowl games.
But he's sure to note that he'll visit UW — the place where, five years ago, he set a lofty goal and accomplished it.
"My lease is up in May, so I'm not going to let them take all my money from me," he said, "so I'll be up here frequently to check up on guys and things like that."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com