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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2011 > May-August > Heavy-Hitter: Little League Graduate Julian Vandervelde Grows from World Series Slugger to NFL Draft Pick

Heavy-Hitter: Little League Graduate Julian Vandervelde Grows from World Series Slugger to NFL Draft Pick

Heavy-Hitter: Little League Graduate Julian Vandervelde Grows from World Series Slugger to NFL Draft Pick


Julian Vandervelde

At 12 years old, Julian Vandervelde was a power-hitting first baseman for Davenport (Iowa) East Little League in the 2000 Little League Baseball World Series. Now, Julian is on the verge of playing in the National Football league (NFL) following his selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round of league’s amateur player draft.

A three-year starter for the University of Iowa football team, Julian entered the NFL draft as the 18th ranked offensive guard out of 158 participating at the NFL Combine. He was selected 161st overall.

In 2010, Julian started at left guard and was selected as a second-team All-Big Ten player by Big Ten Conference coaches and media. An Academic All-Big Ten student-athlete for the fourth-straight year, Julian was a semifinalist for William V. Campbell Trophy and Forest Evashevski Scholastic Achievement Awards.

Despite his youth, growing up around sports and excelling athletically and academically, this young man has developed a keen understanding and appreciation for the slim margin separating failure from success.

Playing in the final World Series before the tournament expanded from eight to 16 teams, Julian was aware even then of how special an accomplishment it was to be playing against Little League’s elite teams.

“The Little League World Series was a special experience that taught me about perseverance,” Julian, now 6-foot-3, 301-pounds, said in an interview with Little League International in 2007. “When I look at my old baseball glove that I wore in the World Series, I have the same sense of pride that I get now when I am putting on my Hawkeye football helmet and jersey.”



Julian Vandervelde, middle, played in the 2000 Little League Baseball World Series for Davenport East Little League from Iowa. At 12 years of age, Julian stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 231 pounds, making him one of the largest players to participate in the World Series. Julian (No. 63), a 6-foot-3, 301-pound offensive guard attended the University of Iowa. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 National Football League (NFL) amateur draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.


During Davenport East’s run to the World Series Julian learned about camaraderie and what Little League can mean to a town. From the parents traveling to practices and games, to the excitement when the team won, he became aware of what it means to strive for a common goal.


Representing the Central Region, the common goal for the Davenport East team was to win the World Series. What Vandervelde said his team learned from the experience is, it’s more about the journey and the challenges faced and overcome in getting there, than actually winning the world championship.

“When I was a kid, it was a strange feeling playing at the World Series in front of thousands of people after playing the same game a few weeks earlier in front of just my family and other moms and dads,” Julian said. “Now that I am playing football on Saturdays in front of thousands of fans, it’s the same type of feeling.”

At 6-foot-2 and 231 pounds, Julian was an imposing figure when he helped the Davenport East Little League team go 20-4 in the summer of 2000. In the 54th Little League World Series, the Central Region champions posted a 2-2 record, losing 8-0, to the South Region champion from Bellaire, Texas, in the United States championship game.

In the Series, Julian hit .417 (5-for-12), with a home run, two runs batted in, one stolen base, and three runs scored.

Like many of the teams that reach the World Series, the road to Williamsport is often as thrilling as the games. Equally exciting is meeting players from different parts of the world.

For Julian and his teammates, sharing moments with the team from Musachi Fuchu Little League in Tokyo, Japan, were special.

“Our team and the Japanese kids got along really well,” Julian said. “When we played Texas, they were cheering for us. They kept yelling something in Japanese. We found out later they were saying, ‘fight on, fight on.’ ”

Japan lost the International final that year, but before both teams went home they played a “friendship game.”

Julian still has some mementos from his World Series experience. In a case in his room at home he has the home run ball he hit in his first World Series game. He also still has his World Series jersey. His parents, John and Cynthia, have a collection of pictures from their visit to Williamsport.


In the 2000 Little League Baseball World Series, Julian Vandervelde played first base for the Central Region champions from Davenport (Iowa) East Little League. He hit .417, with a home run, two runs batted in, three runs scored and a stolen base.


After graduating from the Little League program he wrestled, played baseball and football, and was a member of the track and field team through middle school and high school. In his senior year at Davenport’s Central High, Julian was voted captain of the football team and earned first-team all-state honors. In his junior and senior years he also was the Iowa Class 4A state shot put champion.

Earning three varsity letters as an offensive and defensive lineman on the Central High School football team, Julian was recruited by several colleges and universities, including Michigan and Stanford. He decided to stay in-state and play for the Hawkeyes on a full athletic scholarship.

“After Little League, I was dead set on playing baseball in high school,” Julian said. “My mother got me into Little League and I played from Tee Ball until I was 12. When I got into middle school and high school, I decided I wanted to play as many sports as I could.”

“This year we caught some of the Little League World Series games on ESPN,” Julian said. “Playing in the Little League World Series still gives me inspiration to always do my best, and while watching the games I’d share some stories with my current teammates.

“That team and the World Series experience is something I’ll always hold dear,” he said.