June 28, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Things are different for James Vandenberg. Summer drills are different. More responsibility hinges on his golden right arm. Reporters hang on his every word. That’s what comes about when you’re set to take over the reigns of the University of Iowa football team’s quarterback position.
Vandenberg steps into the role as the Hawkeye signal caller after occupying the No. 2 position on the depth chart behind Ricky Stanzi the past two seasons after redshirting in 2008. As a redshirt freshman, Vandenberg completed 42-of-87 passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, he completed 5-of-8 passes for 45 yards with one touchdown.
Things are definitely going to change for Vandenberg.
“It is a completely different role being No. 1… there’s a lot of stuff you don’t have to do when you’re No. 2,” said Vandenberg on Tuesday outside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “Having that experience and being here for three years, I think I’m ready to go.”
Sitting behind and studying Stanzi helped Vandenberg know what it takes to be successful in the Big Ten Conference. Stanzi not only helped him with the X’s and O’s, but he showed him the demeanor necessary to thrive in big-time college football.
“If there was one thing I learned from Rick is that you have to be cool-headed,” said Vandenberg. “There are going to be ups and downs. It’s not always perfect.
“I am a pretty laid back guy, I don’t really get jacked up. I try to stay calm and cool. At the quarterback position you’re more of a thinker than you are off emotion, so I try to stay there.”
Moving to the top of the depth chart has also brought with the expectation that the Hawkeyes are “his” team. Vandenberg is easing his way into that leadership role.
“I think I have started building that this spring,” said Vandenberg. “That will only continue to grow as we move into camp and into the season. There is a leadership role that needs to be filled, and I’m just trying to step into it. There are a lot of experienced guys out there with me… I just hope to gain their trust.”
During the final two months before the season opener at Kinnick Stadium, Vandenberg is honing his skills in the weight room and in film study.
“You can’t get complacent in the summer,” he said. “It’s really easy to take it off, even when we are working out as much as we are. There is a lot of free time, and I’m trying to keep myself busy with the stuff that I know will make me better.”
Despite playing just seven games in his first three seasons in Iowa City, Vandenberg has high expectations for himself to live up to as Iowa’s starting quarterback.
“I know what level I can play up to, and I want to play my best, what I know is my best,” said Vandenberg. “I think playing quarterback in the Big Ten you’re going to want to have high expectations.”
Things are going to be different for Vandenberg. He knows he’s paid his dues — sitting, learning and observing — preparing for this time.
“If I am not ready now after three years then I’ll never be ready.”