The New York Jets said goodbye today to one of the most notable members of the Green & White that most fans barely knew.
Steve Yarnell, the Jets' vice president and senior director of security for 16 years, announced his retirement to a gathering of fellow employees at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center this afternoon.
"It's just been a wonderful 16 years," said Yarnell, who shared hugs with his wife, Jane, and members of the Jets coaching, football and business staffs over cake in the players' servery. "I worked with a lot of great general managers and head coaches. I'm looking forward to doing some consulting a day or two a week and spending a little more time with my family."
"Loyalty, dedication, unselfishness, those terms are sometimes used too loosely, but they all describe Steve," said Bobby Mastroddi, the vice president of security and facilities operations who now steps into Yarnell's role in the organization. "Steve worked 24/7 for 16 years and never complained. He came back months ahead of schedule from injuries and surgeries that he had. He showed time and again how dedicated he was."
Yarnell's future connection to the Jets began when he was a three-year letterman on defense for the U.S. Military Academy, where he played under then Army assistant coach Bill Parcells. He moved on to become an infantry officer, an honor graduate of the Army's Ranger School and Airborne School. He then worked as an FBI special agent on criminal and terrorism matters and in the National Security Division through 1997.
In between, he reunited with Parcells to organize the Giants' security during the 1990 postseason and the Patriots' security in the '96 postseason.
In 1997 he joined Parcells with the Jets. If fans remember Yarnell at all, it's as the stern-visaged security man, sometimes wearing all-business sunglasses, accompanying Jets head coaches from Parcells to Al Groh to Herm Edwards to Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan on and off of NFL fields on Sunday afternoons in the fall.
"It was good walking across the field after every game," Ryan said today, "knowing I had the baddest guy in the stadium with me."
Yarnell's job required much more than that, of course. He directed every phase of security at the team complex, at all games and during all team camps. He also served as the team's liaison for security-related matters with the NFL and with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.