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Patrick Yarber’s FBS journey wrapping up

Photo+by+Malik+Rahili++%7C++The+Appalachian
Photo by Malik Rahili | The Appalachian

Patrick Yarber is legally blind, but that hasn’t affected his love for college football.

Yarber, 54, has retinitis pigmentosa, which affects the tissue at the back of the inner eye that converts light to nerve signals that get sent to the brain. Symptoms include loss of vision in low light, loss of peripheral vision and loss of central vision.

To make things harder on Yarber, he also has macular degeneration, an age-related condition that deteriorates central vision.

“I probably have less than 20 percent of my vision,” Yarber said. “I have a little bit of straight-ahead gun barrel vision, but I stay pretty blurry and out of focus most of the time.”

During the 2013 college football season, Yarber attended a game at the University of Idaho, marking the 125th FBS stadium he had visited and watched a game. The feat meant Yarber had succeeded in attending a home football game at every FBS stadium in the nation and earned him a feature on ESPN College Gameday.

With the addition of App State, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion to the FBS ranks this year, however, Yarber had more work to do.

“It didn’t start out as a goal, it just ended up that way,” Yarber said. “My vision has gotten really bad the past two or three years. I wanted to hurry up and get it done.”

Yarber visited Old Dominion for a game against Middle Tennessee State University for his 126th stadium a week before traveling to Boone this past weekend for App State’s matchup with South Alabama to check off No. 127.

“[Boone] is probably the most beautiful site I’ve been to,” Yarber said. “It’s very scenic with the mountains and the way it’s laid out. It’s a beautiful setting.”

While the venues are constantly changing for Yarber, his routine stays the same.

“When I go to a game, I have a bag with me that has my Walkman, binoculars and my cane,” Yarber said. “[That is] what I need to help me enjoy the game as much as I can.”

Yarber said he is making sure he enjoys every game to the fullest and compared his hobby to baseball card collecting.

“I can’t see those anymore, so I just collect going to college football games,” Yarber said.

Visiting college stadiums has dominated much of Yarber’s time since he went on disability three and a half years ago.

“I had two jobs for 33 years,” Yarber said. “I worked for First American Bank for 23 years and I worked for a law firm as a collector, but my job was staring at a computer screen and my left eye was so weak that I got the tendency to strain and the muscle got out of whack and my eye would jump around on me and I couldn’t focus.”

Yarber, who is single and has no children, also has been a season ticket holder for Vanderbilt football for 35 years, and has seen players and coaches like Herschel Walker and Bear Bryant.

“I have a lot of married friends that say, ‘If you were married, you wouldn’t be doing this’,” Yarber said. “I miss the daily grind of going to work, but I haven’t given up. I still do what I want to do.”

With App State checked off of his list, Yarber sets his sights on his final venue – Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia, where he plans to go next week to watch Georgia Southern take on Idaho.

After he is done, Yarber said the hardest part might be picking out his favorite memory from the years of experiences.

“One of these days, something’s gonna run out whether it’s my vision, my money or my desire to do it,” Yarber said. “I’ve never met a game or a stadium that I didn’t like. I could think an hour about that and then probably still wouldn’t be able to pick out a favorite memory.”

Story: Cory Spiers, Sports Editor

Photo: Malik Rahili, Visual Managing Editor

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