August. When football training camps are in session, and retired players don’t miss the sweat, strain and drudgery a bit.
Yet, former Iowa offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde tweeted the following Sunday:
I completely, seriously, and unironically miss everything about @HawkeyeFootball including camp. Don’t miss much about the NFL, but I miss Iowa Football.
Davenport’s Vandervelde is 30, and the market president of North Liberty-based Moxie Solar’s Quad Cities office. His football career was over, then it wasn’t. He played this year for the Quad City Steamwheelers of Champions Indoor Football.
“Their center got pulled up to the CFL and they were making a playoff run,” Vandervelde said Monday. “As a hometown guy, I felt I had a responsibility to do that.”
So he competed against the Omaha Beef, Amarillo Venom, and other obscure football entities.
“The guys have a love of the game,” said 2011 Iowa graduate Vandervelde. “They just want to play a couple more times.”
What he misses, though, are his Iowa days. You see a lot of that. Former Hawkeyes flock back to Iowa City for football weekends. Once the NFL season gets into bye weeks for teams, it’s common to see ex-Hawkeyes in the league scoot back to Kinnick Stadium on that Saturday instead of going on siesta somewhere more secluded.
“It’s something special,” Vandervelde said about his Iowa experience. “I’ve never really found that feeling anywhere else.
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“Once you go through that thing you go through as part of the Iowa program, you have a sense of unity, family and connectedness forever.
“College is a special time, anyway. I think when you push through those things that you never thought were possible as a player, it really kind of builds character for the rest of your life. It’s built core values in me that allowed me to be a good husband, a good father (of two), and a pillar of the community.”
If you’ve positioned yourself as the biggest sports thing in your state, you should have a moral compass and you should do right by your players as well as your university and state.
That said, when you see two Big Ten teams with coaches currently on administrative leave for off-field decision-making that appears to have been questionable at best, you can’t be blamed for thinking “Glad that’s not here.”
Vandervelde, like so many former Hawkeyes players of the last two decades, gives Ferentz and his staff a ton of credit.
“Iowa’s had two head coaches in 40 years,” he said. “I think there’s a difference in the culture there, and the culture of the program starts with the head coach. Once you establish a culture long enough, it soaks into the organization as a whole.”
The number will go down a bit once preseason roster cuts are made, but Iowa has 36 players on NFL rosters. That’s a lot.
Now, there’s no replacement for talent. But Vandervelde, who was with Philadelphia from 2011 to 2015, speaks to what the NFL people think of the Iowa people.
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“To my knowledge,” he said, “I hold the record for most transactions with a single team. I believe, in some way, shape or form, I had 21.”
What that means is Vandervelde was either signed, released, or moved on/off the practice squad by the Eagles in 21 separate moves over those five years.
“I blew my back out and had surgery,” he said, “and the Eagles brought me back while I was still kind of in recovery mode. They said I was the kind of guy they wanted around there, that I was a character guy and worked hard, and brought everyone else around me up.
“That speaks volumes not so much about me, but the environment I was used to playing in at Iowa.”
Again, no one needs to throw Ferentz and his assistants parades for that. It’s their job and responsibility, and they are the first to say so.
But as long as Ferentz’s program keeps sending forth people like Vandervelde, who has passions for renewable energy, learning, family, and a world that’s bigger than himself, I’ll remind myself not to lump Iowa in with Ohio State and Maryland when it comes to recent off-field performance.
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