This is my #1 target as our future RT
lmost passed up by Hillsdale, Grand Rapids' Jared Veldheer now has a shot at NFL
By Howie Beardsley | The Grand Rapids Press
January 08, 2010, 9:00AM
Beardsley-column-mug.jpgHad it not been for the advice of a coach from another sport, Hillsdale College football coach Keith Otterbein wouldn't have wasted his time recruiting left tackle Jared Veldheer out of Forest Hills Northern.
"One day the basketball coach comes down the hallway and says, 'There's a big, tall kid in Grand Rapids you have to look at,' " Otterbein said. "You cover your bases, so we followed up on Jared. He was a big, 6-foot-7 kid, about 250 (pounds) and was pretty good. But he wasn't great and wasn't highly recruited."
"We like big, stretch guys who can fill out, and his brother (Aaron) played basketball at Hillsdale, so we took him. But we didn't go down the hall doing cartwheels like we got an NFL prospect."
Fast-forward to the present, where Veldheer is a 6-9, 321-pound player who was a consensus NCAA Division II All-American this season. He helped Hillsdale upset top-ranked Grand Valley State and led the Chargers to their first Division II playoff appearance.
Veldheer also is spending the next 1 1/2 months in Nashville, Tenn., working out at the DI Sports Performance training complex. It is a facility, co-owned by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, where a lot of players train before the Feb. 24 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"It's absolutely exciting to be a guy from Hillsdale invited to the combine, and it's an honor to be here at DI training with the big guys from the Division I schools," Veldheer said by phone.
"No one, myself included, would have believed this could happen when I showed up at Hillsdale as a freshman. I have to pinch myself."
Jared Veldheer Hillsdale footballCourtesy Photo | Hillsdale CollegeJared Veldheer is training in Nashville, Tenn., ahead of next month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.Veldheer is performing three-a-day workouts in Nashville that consists of agility and speed drills in the morning, lifting in the afternoon and flexibility work at night.
Desire to get better It is a work ethic similar to the one he used to put himself in position to be an NFL draft pick and earn in invitation to the Feb. 6 Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Game in El Paso, Texas.
"I went to Hillsdale my freshman year and saw freshman teammates who were stronger than me. All the seniors were strong guys. I said I wanted that to be me," Veldheer said.
So, despite the academic rigors at Hillsdale, the biology major found time in the weight room and track to turn into a legitimate NFL prospect.
"Jared's NFL stock will only increase while he's in Nashville, because he works so hard," said Hillsdale quarterback Troy Weatherhead (Comstock Park).
"Not a day went by at Hillsdale that he wasn't doing something football related. His hard work, leadership and dedication to the game were impressive. You look at him and you think he's just a big block of meat. But his footwork is impeccable."
It is the combination of being a hard worker and having character that has made Veldheer something special.
"You preach to your players about how good they can be with hard work," Otterbein said. "Right now, Jared is at his peak. He's a freak, a big dude who can bend and run.
"But the best part about Jared is he's never changed one bit as a person.
Pro scouts were showing up pretty much daily since last August, and he never changed his work ethic or his personality."
If Veldheer becomes a rare Division II draft selection in April, he'll still be the same Jared Veldheer.
The only difference is he has gotten larger and more talented.
"I'll definitely never change," Veldheer said. "Having the right attitude for everything helps. If you have a bad attitude, or think you're better than everyone else, you'll never get the best out of the situation you're in, and you'll never get the best out of the people around you."