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November 19, 2010
Iowa's Renaissance Man
Julian Vandervelde is the embodiment of the idea that dreams can come true.
When he was young, his mom, Cynthia, would take him to Iowa Football games. While sitting the stands he would tell his mother, "Mom, someday I want to go to Kinnick for college."
Well mom, he did it.
He did it and more, so much more.
From playing in the Little League World Series, to becoming a four year starter for the University of Iowa, to singing the National Anthem for the President of the United States, to being named an Academic All American, to belting out a wicked version of Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Pride and Joy" at a local karaoke venue near you, Julian Vandervelde has lived quite a life at age 23.
But his biggest dream was always to play for the Hawkeyes.
"It is the best feeling in the world to live your dream," Julian said this week. "It means the world to have been a part of this program. To come out here on Saturday as a senior and a four year starter will be pretty amazing."
On Saturday, Vandervelde will say goodbye to Kinnick as a player and it will certainly be an emotional time for him, his mother, and his step-father, John Tobin.
"Mom's going to cry," Julian said with a smile.
Mom isn't denying that the tears will be flowing.
"It is starting to feel emotional. Even last Saturday, I started feeling like, wow, this is it," Cynthia said. "I'm not a big crier, but I'll be crying."
Julian grew up in a single parent home until around age ten, when his mother married John Tobin. Sometimes that transition from just mom to mom and step-father can be difficult for both new parent and child. With Julian it was a seamless transition.
"He does a lot of praising of us for being good parents, but honestly I think he just came to us that way," Cynthia said with a laugh.
"Julian is just an exceptional kid," John said. "I can honestly say that I have seen things and been a part of things that I never would have imagined because of him."
Those things include a trip to the Little League World Series where Julian received plenty of publicity because he was about a foot taller and many pounds heavier than the rest of the 11 and 12 year old boys in Williamsport, PA.
It also included being a part of the Iowa Football family for the past five years and seeing him start the vast majority of the games the past four seasons.
And this past spring, John and Julian's younger sister Olivia were front and center when he sang the National Anthem for President Obama when he visited Iowa City.
"It was awesome. Not everybody gets to sing in front of the President, but Julian did," Olivia said with great pride.
"We were standing there waiting for Julian to sing and a lady standing by me wondered why they were letting a football player sing when we have so many classically trained singers on the Iowa campus," John said. "I didn't say anything, but when he was done, she said, 'Wow, he was good'. I still didn't say anything."
Several times this year Coach Kirk Ferentz has call Vandervelde a "Renaissance Man" and compared him to former University of Iowa President David Skorton, who was a man with a wide variety of talents and interests.
He isn't that far off.
Vandervelde is scheduled to graduate with honors in December with a double major in English and Religion and a minor in Japanese. You won't find many, or likely any, college football players with that combination, let alone the academic success that he has achieved.
"I think he might be our first and last player to take Japanese," joked Coach Ferentz this week.
As much as they have enjoyed Julian's success on the football field, John and Cynthia are very proud of his academic achievements at the University of Iowa.
"We made a conscious effort to always talk about the academic side. That is what really makes us proud," Cynthia said.
They are also proud of their son who has achieved so much and dreamed so much in his life. It is rare when dreams do come true for our children, but they have seen it and lived it.
"I just have such happiness for him because he has had the opportunity to live some of his dreams," said Cynthia.
From Julian's perspective, he has lived that dream and shared it with his mom and step-father. In the past five years and many years before, they were with him every step of the way, watching, cheering, and supporting him through every wonderful accomplishment at home or on the road.
"It is great to have parents that are willing to do it," Julian said. "The beginning of my life could have been very different if not for my mom. To have them be willing to make so many sacrifices for me over the years is very special."
Sacrifices are easy to make for a special young man and Julian Vandervelde is pretty special. He is a true Renaissance Man who dreamed of being a Hawkeye and lived that dream.
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