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April 4, 2011

The Vandervelde Chronicles

In some ways, Julian Vandervelde has lived a fairy tale life. From living his dream of playing football at the University of Iowa and being honored as an All Big Ten performer to some amazing media opportunities that have come his way, the former Hawkeye has had a great life. In chapter five of the Vandervelde Chronicles, he talks about his senior season ending on a high note, having features on his singing done on ESPN and the BTN, plus much more.

Chapter 5: You Don't Have to Go Home, But You Can't Play Here

If my career at Iowa had been a movie, we would have gone undefeated my senior year, won the national championship and then gone to Disney World. Sadly I appear to be living in Cam Newton's movie, a fact I'm alright with cause the funny fat guy always ends up with a hot chick. With that in mind, this past season had its ups and downs, mostly ups, and ended on a good note so I can't complain there. Was there a Lord of the Rings game? Yes, Michigan State. Once again an otherwise undefeated team strolls into Kinnick Stadium only to have their national title dreams smashed to pieces on the sharp rocks at the bottom of the Hawkeye waterfall. By the way, a quick shout out to our fans. I had to admit I never thought that black and gold strips thing was going to work for the Penn state game but boy was I wrong. In probably the coolest looking organization of fandom Kinnick's ever seen the alternating black and gold sections, now immortalized in a mural outside the practice locker room in the football complex, took my breath away. Anyone can do a white out or a green out, solid colors are easy, but Hawk fans raise the stakes. Now I challenge you guys to do stripes horizontally by rows. Pull that off and I'll be really impressed...

2010 was an interesting year for me. Now in a stable, committed relationship I found myself forced to clean up my otherwise atrocious living space and organize things by category. The horror! I've always believed a messy room is a sign of genius. It would appear however that the opposite sex tends to think it's just a sign of laziness. On the field I was having an All-Big Ten season. Off the field I was living the dream. Monday nights were filled with Dungeons and Dragons which I've been playing with a group of friends from my Japanese class for the last 3 years in one continuously evolving campaign. (Could I be any nerdier?) Tuesday through Friday nights were filled with football, homework and video games, and homework was sparse at best. Saturdays were game days after which I could come home with my smoking hot girlfriend and enjoy a little r&r *wink wink*. Sundays the team would shake out and get ready to start the process over. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there someone told the TV people that I could sing...

I was not so very surprised when I got a call from the Big Ten Network asking to do a pre-game special about my singing. I had been doing an independent study with a professor on Christianity in Japan around World War 2, she had a former student who worked for BTN and she had told me she was going to talk to him about me because we had similar interests. (Take notes kids. Do everything, meet everyone, and make lots of friends. Whether its sports, theater, choir, or speech and debate, you never know who or what is going to help you in the future. And don't do drugs.) The fact that the area they wanted to focus on was my karaoke hobby was a little more surprising. Even more surprising was when I got a call from ESPN wanting to do a similar story, only with the focus on my classical singing. In a two week span I was singing Mustang Sally and Umi no Otoko wa Yo, The Proclaimers and Phantom of the Opera. It was like a frat boy and my grandmother fighting over which radio station to listen to. I'm not going to comment on which crew was more professional and fun to work with, but you can watch both specials online somewhere and draw your own conclusions...

Both specials aired before the Michigan game, one of my better games, and suddenly I couldn't walk down the street without hearing "Hey! Aren't you that guy who sings?" Don't get me wrong, I like being known for something positive, and it's given me some great chances to talk to groups of kids about being versatile in life, but I'd really rather be known as "that guy who plays football." I spent a whole week telling media people to do stories on Christian Ballard and his art, but I'm pretty sure no one asks him if he's "that guy who paints." Still, I'm not gonna act like I didn't like the attention, it's just a little odd. Offensive linemen aren't really supposed to be that recognizable, and as far as I'm concerned I'm still just a fat kid from Davenport who God really likes for some reason. Maybe he's a D&D playing anime nerd too...

The season was less than stellar to be sure, and I certainly won't go into details that everyone knows. However you can't argue with the fact that the Hawks played like Hawks in the very end. The Insight Bowl was certainly one of the most well run bowl games of my career. Tempe is a great city, the southwest food at our hotel was my favorite out of all the bowl games (with the exception of our trip to Fogo de Chao one night in Miami) and I will absolutely return to that part of the country again if I ever get the chance. After all, when it comes to me and food, you can take it to the bank. I see now why so many Iowa fans migrate to that region of the country. Putting us in a hotel with the only walking-distance entertainment being a casino might not have been the best idea anyone's ever had. I don't gamble, but I heard some horror stories involving heavy investments with poor returns nightly. But in the end the clean air, rough practices and solitude did us good. The Hawks did what Hawks do best; we took a nationally ranked championship caliber opponent and we found a way to beat them. In a stadium that couldn't fit any more black and yellow into it with a Wiz Khalifa concert, we proved that the Hawkeye spirit of never giving up hope is alive and well. It is that spirit that we seniors have now passed to the next generation. It's our turn to fly away, but I know we will remain Hawkeyes from the nest to the sky and till the day we die...

Oh, and one more thing. If you ever see Christian Ballard walking down the street, make sure you ask him about Rawhide, and tell him I sent you...

Stay tuned for the epilogue, coming soon...


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