Yary attended Bellflower High School in Los Angeles County, California. In October 2001, the school named the football field Ron Yary Stadium. While attending Bellflower High School, Yary starred in football, baseball, and basketball.
Anthony Ronald Yary was born in Chicago and attended Cerritos College for one year and then the University of Southern California, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. As a sophomore in 1965, Yary was voted the Pac-8 defensive lineman of the year and All-West Coast for his play at defensive tackle. As a junior he was moved to the offensive line where he was a consensus All-American as a junior in 1966  and a unanimous All-American choice in 1967, his senior year. He was the 1967 winner of both the Outland Trophy and the Knute Rockne Award, awards that annually go to the nation's top collegiate lineman. Yary was the first USC Trojan to win the Outland. In Yary's senior year of 1967 the Trojans won the NCAA football national championship under Coach John McKay. During Yary's three seasons, the Trojans compiled a 24-7-1 record. In 1987 Yary was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on December 30, 2012 representing USC.
Yary was the first overall pick of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, who had traded Fran Tarkenton to the New York Giants for that selection, becoming the first offensive lineman ever to be selected first overall. He played from 1968 to 1981 with the Minnesota Vikings, and 1982 with the Los Angeles Rams. During Yary's tenure with the Vikings, the team won 11 division titles. During that period, Minnesota won the 1969 NFL championship and NFC titles in 1973, 1974 and 1976, and played in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX and XI where Yary was one of 11 Players to have played in all four games for the Vikings. Yary was named All-Pro 6 consecutive seasons (1971–76) and 2nd Team All-Pro in 1970 and 1977 and was an All-NFC choice from 1970 through 1977. He played in seven consecutive Pro Bowls, and was a major force in a Minnesota team that was highly successful throughout the 1970s. In addition to his All-pro honors, Yary was voted the NFC Offensive Lineman of the Year three times (1973–75) by the NFLPA.
Yary won the starting right tackle job (military duty forced him to miss first three games) on the Vikings offensive line in his second season and remained as a fixture at that spot throughout his Minnesota tenure. He was voted to the 1970s All-Decade First Team after the 1979 season.
Yary was also durable and played in spite of injuries. He missed only two games due to injuries—both coming in 1980 with a broken ankle—in 14 years in Minnesota. Later that same year, he continued to play in spite of a broken foot. He was inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2000. He became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. It would be 29 years before another offensive lineman would be drafted first overall. Which was Orlando Pace, picked by the Rams in 1997.