December 6, 2017

Cornering the Fashion Market | Ronnie Yell

What do Michael Jordan, David Beckham, LeBron James, Maria Sharapova, Russell Westbrook and Ronnie Yell have in common?

Yes, they are all professional athletes, but what truly connects these names is their success in the fashion industry.

Known throughout the CFL for his flair for fashion, Ronnie was approached by G TEAM Apparel prior to the 2017 season to create his own line of clothing. G TEAM is a clothing company based in San Diego, CA and they identified the hometown cornerback to be the face of their brand. The RY25 clothing line was born from the marriage of Yell and G TEAM.

“G TEAM reached out to me and expressed their interest,” says Yell on how the relationship started. “They are San Diego based and I’m from San Diego, so it’s a hometown brand for me.

“They explained that they would like me to be the face of the brand because of my success in the CFL and what I stand for. We linked up and put our heads together. We came up with a logo that I love and we just got down to work.”

Ronnie is a very creativity person. He loves to draw and is the proud owner of one of the most impressive collection of tattoos in the CFL. During training camp, Ronnie made his practice apparel a topic of daily discussion. Monday to Sunday, every practice was a different theme for the veteran defensive back. As you might have guessed, it was always a dream to have his very own clothing line.

“You just want to branch off and do your own thing. You want to get your name out there, your brand out there and create a legacy,” is how Ronnie describes his motivation for designing the RY25 brand. “As far as the different designs, the colour combos and the ideas, that all comes from me.”

Ronnie hit the ground running, creating 18 separate articles of men’s clothing in the first year of production, ranging from fashion forward high-performance wear to casual street wear. The men’s line was so successful that G TEAM released a women’s RY25 line in the summer of 2017. Ronnie appeared to carry over the positive momentum gained from creating his clothing brand to the gridiron, as he was able to produce a career season this year in Black and Orange.

2017 was a disappointing season for the Lions as a whole, as the club missed the postseason for the first time in two decades. However, despite the struggles, there were a number of bright spots on the team and Yell definitely qualifies as this. The 26-year-old excelled from his corner spot, establishing new career highs with 64 tackles on defence and three interceptions across 18 games. Ronnie added one special teams takedown, broke up seven pass attempts and recovered one fumble.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Ronnie’s season was the fact he dressed in all 18 regular season game for the Leos. This is significant because he was limited to just 10 contests in 2016 after breaking his foot during pre-game warmups in a tilt against the Toronto Argonauts on August 31. Following an offseason rehabbing his foot, Yell returned healthy and hungry to re-establish himself as a shutdown corner in 2017.

“It’s honestly just a blessing to back out here healthy for the whole season,” said Ronnie on the joy he feels staying out of the training room this year.

Arguably his best outing of the season came against the Argonauts on June 30 in Toronto, as he notched five tackles, intercepted Ricky Ray once, broke up two other passes, and recovered a fumble against the eventual Grey Cup champs. Given that it was in Toronto that his season came to an abrupt end in 2016, this game was especially meaningful for the ball-hawking corner.

Ronnie is one of the Lions’ most consistent playmakers on defence and he came up with key interceptions on a couple instances in 2017. The first of which came during the Leos’ unexpected fourth quarter comeback against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 21 at BC Place. With the game knotted at 42 with a little under 90 seconds remaining, Ronnie stepped in front of Weston Dressler near the sideline and snagged the Matt Nichols pass. The interception set up a 34-yard Ty Long field goal that proved to be the difference as the Lions edged the Bombers 45-42.

Another exciting moment for Yell occurred in a loss to the Ottawa REDBLACKS on August 26. With the Leos trailing 31-17 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Ronnie anticipated Greg Ellingson running an out pattern and jumped the route. Yell guessed right, as he was able to intercept the Trevor Harris toss in a critical moment of the game. After juggling the ball initially, Ronnie was able to secure the handle and scamper 36 yards down the sideline to set the Lions up with a first down inside the Ottawa five-yard line. Travis Lulay hit Bryan Burnham for a touchdown on the very next play as the Lions came painfully close to completing the miracle comeback.

“It’s amazing, man,” said Yell on the feeling he has when he is flying around on the field. “It’s a blessing to be able to make an impact like I did this year. I feel like I made the most of my opportunities out there and I’m happy about that.”

The departure of Ryan Phillips after the 2016 season left the Lions with a gaping hole in their secondary, not only on the field but in the locker room as well. The four-time CFL All Star was a great leader for the Leos over the last decade but his absence allowed younger players like Ronnie to take the reins in the secondary.

“Ronnie is definitely stepping up as a leader in the room,” said assistant defensive backs coach, Stanley Franks. “Ronnie is not so much of a vocal leader, but he is going to get it done with actions. He comes to work every day at practice and holds the guys accountable in the meeting room. He puts in the extra work and that is big. He is a very smart player and we need that type of leadership.”

The future is bright for the multitalented Yell. His clothing line is only gaining popularity and his play on the field has never been better. Ronnie is set to become a free agent this winter, but there is hope he will be back shadowing the opponents’ top receiver for BC in 2018.

“I really appreciate all the fans that have been supporting the RY25 brand and wearing the clothes to the games,” said Ronnie on the love he has felt from the Lions’ faithful. “It is really cool to look up and see my designs in the stands.”

Be sure to head over to the G TEAM apparel website to check out Ronnie Yell’s latest designs in the RY25 Collection.

bhelberg@bclions.com