By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — If you’re looking for an example of stick-to-itiveness or dogged perseverance, check former University of Iowa football player Julian Vandervelde.
The Davenport, Iowa, native lettered as an offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes from 2007-10, finishing his career with consecutive bowl victories over South Carolina (Outback), Georgia Tech (Orange), and Missouri (Insight). Somewhere between, he overcame doubt of his ability to perform at the Big Ten level.
“I woke up one morning to go to workouts thinking I couldn’t do it anymore,” Vandervelde said Friday during an address to the current Hawkeyes and staff inside the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. “We had this big recruiting class the year before with all these five-star and four-star offensive linemen and I thought they were so much better than me, so what am I doing here?”
Vandervelde phoned his mother with news that he was thinking about ending his college playing career. She would wait for him in Davenport if he wanted to quit.
“It hit me in this weird way that she was giving me the OK to throw away all the work I had done, but that was not me,” Vandervelde said. “Five years from that point, I knew I was going to turn around and look at what I had done. Did I fight through the hard times? Did I follow my dreams? Am I going to let all this fall?”
Vandervelde, a lifelong Hawkeye fan, reconsidered and re-invested in himself.
“I stuck it out and stayed here,” Vandervelde said. “That was the best decision I ever made.”
At Iowa, Vandervelde was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and three-time Academic All-American. Not bad for someone who earned degrees in English and religious studies with a minor in Japanese. He is now working for a professional MBA through the Tippie School of Business back in the Quad-Cities.
“As a student-athlete, with everything we go through, football is a fulltime job,” Vandervelde said. “You are at this complex many hours of the day and many days of the week preparing and your Saturdays are taken up with game day. You have to find time to balance (academics and athletics) and do it in a way that is positive as far as your experience at the university — still finding time for social things and to get out and explore your own interests — and represent the university well.
“Aside from all the wins and losses, actual plays, and friends made, just to be able to have this experience and be the type of person (head coach Kirk Ferentz) would invite back as an honorary captain is special to me.”
Vandervelde was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and played five seasons in the NFL. During his time with the Eagles, Vandervelde set an NFL record by being released and signed by the same team 21 times. His experiences at Iowa helped him through difficult days as a professional.
“It’s the hard work aspect of it,” Vandervelde said. “The harder you work at something, the harder it is to quit or lose. The culture and atmosphere at Iowa prepared me for that; I did have those moments of doubt and was able to work through them. I found people here who were able to help me in ways that got me through the hard times. I came out of those on the other side better than when I started.”
In the final three seasons with Vandervelde in the lineup, Iowa produced 28 victories. The Hawkeyes won 13 consecutive games from 2008-09.
As honorary captain, Vandervelde will accompany the Iowa captains to the center of the field for Saturday’s pregame coin toss against Northern Illinois. He will also be with the Hawkeyes in the locker room before and after the game.