By: Scott Keyes
Oakland Raiders Jared Veldheer reflects on National Signing Day
Jared Veldheer remembers this time of the year.
The starting left tackle from the Oakland Raiders remembers the excitement of signing his letter of intent to play college football, leaving his high school career behind and starting his college career.
That was 2005, when Veldheer graduated from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern High School and signed on to play at Hillsdale College.
So that is why Veldheer showed up Wednesday, signing day, to support 35 West Michigan players representing 15 high school at WBBL-FM's Signing Day Celebration at Celebration Cinema North Studio.
“I'm excited for all these guys who are ready to go play in college,” Veldheer said. “It's a great day for them.”
Veldheer, the 2010 third-round draft pick of the Raiders, was also there to help a lending hand to the newest college players.
“I've started PowerStrength, it's a gym geared around football training. I wanted to be here to reach out to some of the guys, because I know how hard it is to go from high school to the college level.”
Veldheer knows the importance of power and training. The 6-foot-9, 320-pound Veldheer has built himself into one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL in just his second year.
“We want to help get these guys ready for college football, and that means working on their explosion,” Veldheer said.
Although he was happy to attend Wednesday's festivities, Veldheer would have been happy to be in Indianapolis preparing to play in the Super Bowl.
But Oakland missed the playoffs, finishing 8-8, including losing four of its last five games.
“Our goal was to win the AFC West, and we came up short,” Veldheer said. “I'm already getting ready for next season.”
That new season will be with a new coaching staff. The Raiders hired Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to replace coach Hue Jackson this offseason.
“It's exciting to meet all the new coaches and all the new faces,” Veldheer said. “I do understand why everything happened. I've heard from a teammate that met coach Allen that he's a great guy.
WEST MICHIGAN FOOTBALL COMMITS
Ben Braden, OT, 6-7, 320, Michigan
Mark LaPrairie, QB, 6-1, 182, Hillsdale
Steven Mette, K 6-1, 175, Hillsdale
Aaron Weston, TE, 6-6, 245, Wayne State
Anthony DeDamos, LB, 6-2, 220, Wayne State
Matt Boonstra, DL, 6-2, 235, Northern Michigan
Tony Brechting, OL, 6-3, 285, Michigan Tech
Andy Zimmerman, OL/DL, 6-6, 260, Wayne State
Jalin Faison, RB/LB, 6-1, 210, Ferris State
DeAndre Grady, WR/DB, 5-11, 175, Wayne State
David Drummond, RB, 5-8, 170, Saginaw Valley
Ross Ebels, CB, 6-0, 175, Saginaw Valley
Jordan Hill, WR, 6-3, 210, Saginaw Valley
Paul Baker, OL/DL, 6-2, 250, Saginaw Valley
T.J. Beelen, DL, 6-4, 275, Southern Illinois
Kavon Frazier, S, 6-2, 205, Central Michigan
Wes Johnson, DE, 6-4, 210, Ball State
Robert Cuba, DL, 6-1, 265, Ferris State
Christian Benn, WR/DB, 5-11, 176, Northwood
Nate Mitogo, DL, 6-3, 220, College of the Canyons
Danny Cotter, WR, 6-2, 170, Butler
Dakota Smith, RB, 5-8, 180, Northern Michigan
Torrey Appel, DL, 6-3, 253, Ferris State
Scott Staal, QB, 6-1, 195, Valparaiso
Scott Tackett, DL, 6-5, 230, Grand Valley
Kitwana Clark, RB, 5-10, 190, Ferris State
Kevin Vicari, RB, 5-9, 195, Grand Valley
Brandon Haan, P, 6-2, 210, Grand Valley
Jalen Couch, QB, 5-9, 180, Ferris State
Tyler Hanks, WR, 5-10, 170, Ferris State
Chad Burnside, DL, 6-2, 250, Ferris State
Josh Blanton, LB, 6-2, 215, Ferris State
Kyle Kujawa, DB, 5-11, 190, Ferris State
Brad Speet, LB, 6-1, 215, Ferris State
Midland High had three seniors sign letters of intent on national signing day Wednesday, Feb. 1.
Vieau and Wylie are both expected to play the offensive line in the collegiate ranks, while David Walter, who played wide receiver in high school, could either remain a wide out or move to tight end or to the back field, according to Chemic head coach Eric Methner.
"I'm just really excited for these kids," the coach said. "They've all worked extremely hard I'm just pleased for them and their families. It's very rewarding to see all their work paid off."
Ben Murphy, Alan Holben and Mike Schutt Contributed to this report.