MLive: Almost 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.

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