New York Times Bestselling Author. Long-time Sports Illustrated Writer. Cancer Survivor. Entrepreneur. Captivating Storyteller. Speaker of Champions. Team Builder.
As an award-winning keynote speaker, business leadership coach, an eleven-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.
. . . Few journalists can lay claim to as exciting and colorful a career as Don Yaeger
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:
- 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
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.
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 eight New York Times Best-sellers. His Best-sellers 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
- George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution
- Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History
November 22, 2015
- Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages David Ross May 2017
- Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans
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.
What Makes the Great Ones Great
What Makes the Great Ones Great – As a sports writer and author of more than two dozen books, Don has had a front row seat with some of the greatest winners in athletics, including Walter Payton, Jimmy Connors, Michael Jordan, John Wooden, Pat Riley and Dale Brown. They are all legends in their own right, but does anyone believe the athletes mentioned above are really the GREATEST athletes of their time, physically? Remember, Jordan wasn’t even the first pick in the draft. Payton had to go to a small black college because bigger schools didn’t want to risk a scholarship on him. Each became a champion through strength and skills that had nothing to do with physical prowess.
Using rich personal accounts gathered from more than twenty years of interviews with many of today’s sports legends and business leaders, Don has distilled Sixteen Consistent Characteristics of Greatness. Don shares some of these characteristics with audiences, in an easy, engaging style, which helps participants realize that they, too, can achieve a higher level of personal success.
What Makes the Great Teams Great
The Great Teams Understand “The Why”. They are connected to a Greater purpose. Learn how to constantly remind your players and employees of who they are in service of while being acutely aware of downstream beneficiaries. The more a company creates “mission moments” for employees and team members to understand that Greater purpose, the better off the team will be when it comes to enduring any challenges along the way to achieving its goal. In this captivating session, Don Yaeger shares his findings from interviews with Olympic Gold Medal winners like USA Basketball Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K), 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, and USA Basketball CEO Jerry Colangelo, as well as 4-Time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, brilliant thought-leader Simon Synek and longtime Medtronic CEO Bill George.
What Makes a Great Teammate
Every winning team has an MVP… And every MVP has teammates. The Great Teammates become the pulse of high performing organizations, accepting and committing to whatever role is needed to spark winning results. Through remarkable insight from the greatest teammates of our time, Don teaches how if you’re not the most valuable on the team, you can still be invaluable.
Build Your Customer Relations by Building Your Personal Brand
“Everyone recognizes the value of a brand. In fact, BusinessWeek magazine once said that Coca-Cola’s brand alone is worth $67 BILLION. But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to be a brand. Today, in the Age of the Individual, every one of us is a brand. And, just as executives at Coca-Cola must do, it is your responsibility to increase your brand value daily.
Don Yaeger is a nationally recognized expert on the development of Personal Brands, having worked with business leaders, elected officials and world-class athletes on building their brands. In this workshop, Don challenges your audience members to work on the fundamentals of personal branding, including: identifying what they want their brand to be; understanding what intentional acts they must take to get to that place; and discussing the responsibilities of brand ownership.
Why should your employees or members attend this session? Because those who possess, develop and constantly work on their personal brand find their path to professional success a little smoother. People do business with those they enjoy, trust and respect, and characteristics of a strong brand. Like most skills, some people do these things intuitively. But, most of us must work on these things intentionally. This program lays the framework for that growth.
Don Yaeger absolutely wowed our advisors!
I must admit I was a bit anxious to sign the agreement to have Don address our top 200 advisors. As a sports fan, and quite familiar with Don’s books, I was guarding against my bias towards all things sports. I was fearful that his message would not resonate with those that aren’t sports fans or with those that take pleasure in athlete’s failing and focus on the negative behavior that dominates the headlines.
There was no need to worry. Identifying What Makes the Great Ones Great and delivering that message in such a humorous and heartfelt way was well received by every attendee. Don’s presentation was a home run, touchdown, goal, hole in one and every other overused sports cliche there is.
The line that formed after his presentation to shake his hand and buy his books astounded everyone and confirmed what the evaluations later revealed – hiring Don was a fantastic decision. Thanks for making me look smart!
– National VP- Sales Development, Ameritas Life Insurance Corp.
August 13, 2013
Dear Mr. Yaeger,
The letters of “Thank You” for having you come speak to our 750 educators are still pouring into my emails. The teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists, and administrators all agree that you were the best ever key note speaker that I have brought in for Somerset Academy Schools. The attendees felt that your thoughts and ideas were extremely motivational and beneficial to kick off the pre-planning week.
Your topics touched their hearts and more importantly brought out some amazing key points that I know will assist all of the attendees and their students this coming academic school year.
I just want to let you know that I will highly recommend your session to everyone I know as I am sure my staff will do the same.
Dr. Ruth Jacoby
Executive Director of Education for Somerset Academy Schools
– Executive Director of Education, Somerset Academy Schools
- VIDEO Speaking Demo
- VIDEO CNN video clip
- VIDEO Pre-speech Introduction Video
- VIDEO What Makes the Great Ones Great Lesson 2
- VIDEO What Makes the Great Teams Great
- VIDEO What Makes a Great Teammate
- TESTIMONIAL Alabama Pharmacy Association
- TESTIMONIAL Meeting Planners International
- TESTIMONIAL Delaware Medical Group Management Association
- TESTIMONIAL Dell Computers
- TESTIMONIAL Chevron Anchorage and Houston
- TESTIMONIAL ViSalus
- TESTIMONIAL New Jersey Society of Association Executives
- TESTIMONIAL Florida Self Storage Association
- TESTIMONIAL AmeriTitle Recommendation Letter
- TESTIMONIAL AmeriTitle Recommendation Letter
- PHOTO Headshot
- PHOTO American Pharmacy Association Federal Forum
- JACKET First Best Seller
- JACKET Second Best Seller
- JACKET Third Best Seller
- JACKET Fourth Best Seller
- JACKET Game Plan for Life
- JACKET Greatness
- JACKET Michael Oher: I Beat the Odds
- JACKET Great Teams: 16 Things High-Performing Organizations Do Differently
- JACKET Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages
- DOC Don’s Speaking Kit