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March 14, 2011

Vandervelde Chronicles

It was year three for Julian Vandervelde as a Hawkeye and for Iowa Football it was once again a turning point. After struggling the previous season and missing out on a bowl game, the Hawkeyes made a dramatic mid-season turnabout, thanks to the emergence of Shonn Greene at running back. Vandervelde talks about the Outback Bowl win and how he knew they would beat South Carolina, plus he still hates Iowa State.

2nd Chapter Supplemental: The Entity

It has been brought to my attention that last chapter I failed to make mention of one of the most infamous events of my Hawkeye football career which took place that very year. I have gone the rest of my days at Iowa unable to outlive the near-constant shadow of this one event, this one line, this one off-handed and casual comment that at the time I had no second thoughts about and which flowed from my mind out my mouth to the lines of papers statewide more easily than an extra point sails through the uprights. Year in and year out it has come back to remind me of my greatest media fuax pas. Only once did it manage to bite me in the ass, but at no point have I ever regretted it straying from my lips. I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. I hate Iowa State.

3rd Chapter: Back in Black

Year three was the turning point. At the end of year two I knew I could play football, and by the end of year three I knew I could be one of the best in the Big Ten one day. The return to glory for the Hawks started off without much promise. A new quarterback in sophomore Ricky Stanzi, a relatively untested line with new left tackle Bryan Bulaga and center Rob Bruggeman, the return of lost-Hawk Shonn Greene, and a defense that had questions after last season. Camp was rough at best. Shonn was out of shape and the line had more moving pieces than an amusement park. Who would've known that we were about to have one of the best running attacks in the country and the nation's best running back...

As the season started we had more questions piling up than answers originally. With a 3-3 start it was hard to picture where the season was going, but there was never a moment when anyone didn't think we had to potential to be a top-tier team. We had the chance to prove it with that year's Lord of the Rings game, Penn State. Undefeated, Joe Paterno coached, unstoppable and NCAA Championship bound, there may have been one ESPN analyst who actually gave us a shot at making it a close game. This is Iowa. The less of a chance you give us, the more likely we are to prove you wrong. The first 5 minutes and last 5 minutes are 10 of my favorite minutes of my entire Iowa career. The defense was on fire. The offense was running (literally) on all cylinders. It was Hawkeye Football at its finest. And with five seconds left Danny Murray capped off the evening with arguably the 2nd most famous kick in Hawkeye history (a quick shout out to Rob Houghtlin, Chuck Long and the 1985 Hawkeyes). Welcome to Kinnick Stadium, where other team's National Championship dreams come to die. However I've never faced a more respectful opponent. Outside of one or two players, Penn State has always been one of the most honorable, dignified, respectful teams we play year in and year out. With the fall of the mighty Nittany Lions we cemented our place in Iowa history and set the tone for the years to come...

The 2008-2009 season finished off with a very memorable trouncing of the too big, too fast, too SEC South Carolina Gamecocks. Shonn Greene, who the Old Ball Coach said would've been "an ok running back in the SEC", ran around, over and through the highly touted USC defense. The Iowa defense, which was "too slow and too small" to stop the Gamecocks high-powered SEC offense, stoned them time and time again. But what I will remember most about that trip is how well we were treated...

Of all the bowls we've been to, the Outback Bowl really knew players and how to treat them. Plenty of free time, great locations, awesome events, and a wonderful staff. The combination of Tampa Bay and the Outback Bowl committee made it my favorite bowl game of my career. I remember the exact moment when I knew we were going to beat South Carolina. While we were at Busch Gardens a group of our players (myself included) and their players got to pick up a giant python then play with some flamingos. Some of you may remember the picture of a big pink bird nibbling on the top of my head. Our players were having a great time! Their players refused to pick up the snake, but I understand that. It's a big ass snake. But then, they refused to get within five feet of the flamingos when they were brought out. I've never seen a 6'7" 320 lb. man so scared of a bird before in my life. And the bird was pink. He just kept saying "Naw man, I don't do birds man." I knew then that they couldn't compete with us. We also got to ride the new roller coaster, the ShieKra, in the front row about seven times in a row. That was cool too. But I couldn't have imagined how much of a roller coaster the next two years would be...

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