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Don Yaeger's Biography
As an award-winning keynote speaker, business leadership coach, a seven-time New York Times Best-selling author and longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, Don Yaeger has fashioned a career as one of America’s most provocative thought leaders. As a speaker, he has worked with audiences as diverse as Fortune 500 companies and cancer survivor groups, where he shares his personal story.
He is primarily sought to discuss lessons on achieving greatness, learned from first-hand experiences with some of the greatest sports legends in the world. Additionally, Don has been retained by companies and organizations to coach their leaders, management teams and employees on building a culture of greatness by looking at Great Teams in sports and discerning the business lessons we can learn from them. Throughout his writing career, Don has developed a reputation as a world-class storyteller and has been invited as a guest to every major talk show – from Oprah to Nightline, from CNN to Good Morning America.
In the two decades since he accepted his first newspaper job in Texas, the breadth of his assignments has been astounding. He has traveled the world in pursuit of stories as diverse as:
Yaeger began his career as a reporter for the San Antonio Light where he rose through the ranks to pen investigative features for the daily. He later moved on to the Dallas Morning News. Following his stint in Dallas, Yaeger worked as a political editor for the Florida Times-Union.
- Walking into Afghanistan with the Mujahadeen as they fought the Soviets
- Going into Baghdad with the victorious Iraqi soccer team as the battle between insurgents and the US Military waged around them
- Visiting China in pursuit of underworld characters counterfeiting American golf clubs
- Heading to Damascus to find the last living terrorist from the 1972 Olympics
- Living with football legend Walter Payton and his family as Payton was dying
- Roaming around Europe and the Middle East interviewing Iraqi athletes tortured by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee
- Traveling with candidates from both parties during Presidential campaign
- Chronicling the high-profile Duke Lacross scandal
After four years, he decided to dedicate himself to the pursuit of writing books. Yaeger’s first book, Undue Process: The NCAA’s Injustice For All, was published in 1990. In the 22 years since, he has penned 23 more books, including seven New York Times Best-sellers. His Best-sellers (and their debut date on the Times list) are:
Under the Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed its Ideals for Football Glory
October 3, 1993
Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton
October 1, 2000
Ya Gotta Believe: My Roller-Coaster Life As a Screwball Pitcher, Part-Time Father and My Hope-Filled Fight Against Brain Cancer with Tug McGraw
March 7, 2004
It's Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered
July 7, 2007
I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to the Blind Side, and Beyond with Michael Oher
February 27, 2011
Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laugh, and Leadership in the World's Most Beautiful Game with Rex Ryan
May 22, 2011
Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur with Ryan Blair
August 21, 2011
Don also wrote A Game Plan For Life, with legendary coach John Wooden. It was published on Coach’s 99th birthday in October 2009.
Movie rights to both the Duke book and Turning of The Tide, a book about a 1970 football game between the last all-white team at the University of Alabama and the fully-integrated team from the University of Southern California, have recently been sold.
After several years of freelancing for Sports Illustrated, Don joined the magazine’s staff full-time in July 1996. Two years later he was promoted to Associate Editor, where his work was to cover not just sporting events but the off-the-field happenings which affect the world of sports. He took an early retirement from full-time work at SI in 2008 and continues to freelance for the magazine.
Yaeger and his co-author William Nack were finalists for a 2000 National Magazine Award in the public interest category for their cover story “Who’s Coaching Your Kid?: The frightening truth about child molestation in youth sports.” This important piece triggered follow-up reports by programs such as Dateline, 20/20 and The Oprah Winfrey Show. It also resulted in changes to the law in several states and several youth sports organizations, including Little League of America, changed rules to require background checks of coaches and volunteers.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Yaeger has traveled extensively. The Dominican Republic, Honduras, Japan and Great Britain can be counted among the countries in which he has resided. A 1984 graduate of Ball State University, Yaeger currently lives in Tallahassee, FL. He also owns a political consulting business and a public relations firm. He and his wife Jeanette have a son and a daughter.