Rivals.com College Football Staff Writer
FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Jared Veldheer is preparing for the draft just like any other NFL hopeful. He just took a different route to get here.
At D1 Sports Training in suburban Nashville, Veldheer -- who played at Division II Hillsdale (Mich.) College -- is running through cones on the same artificial turf where another offensive tackle, Ole Miss' Michael Oher, trained before becoming a first-round pick a year ago. On the other side of a partition from Veldheer is Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who is lifting weights.
|Despite coming from a Division II school, Hillsdale (Mich.) College, offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is just as likely to get drafted as Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.|
"I think at first [the small-school players] might be a little uneasy being around guys from all these big programs," said Kurt Hester, D1's director of training. "And then after a week, they see they're just as strong, just as fast, just as athletic -- or more athletic."
In the past four drafts, only 26 of the 1,018 players drafted didn't play in Division I. But three starters in the Super Bowl didn't play for D-I programs -- Saints guard Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon (Mount Union) and tight end Gijon Robinson (Missouri Western).
Though even hard-core college football fans aren't familiar with Veldheer's body of work at Hillsdale, Veldheer is just as likely to be drafted in April as Tebow. Though Veldheer isn't a first-round prospect, he still could end up in the same spot as Oher, too, as a starting tackle for an NFL team.
In Division II, Veldheer's college career took a different path than his counterparts in big-time college football. Hillsdale bused to nearly every game, including an 11-hour ride to Michigan's upper peninsula. He didn't have a staff of strength and conditioning coaches watching his every move in the weight room. His offensive line coach doubled as the strength coach at Hillsdale, a school with an enrollment of 1,300. (The school's major distinction is its refusal to take any federal or state taxpayer support, meaning Hillsdale is not subject to state and federal laws related to funding, such as Title IX.)
But at D1, Veldheer looks every bit the part of a draft prospect. He's a lean 315 pounds at 6 feet 8. He can bench press 225 pounds 33 times, high numbers for someone with 33-inch arms. He's a former basketball player, and his athleticism shows it. Off the field, he has a GPA of better than 3.1 and will graduate with a biology degree when he finishes his thesis after the draft.