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Julian Vandervelde signing with the Quad City Steamwheelers.

Former Davenport Central, Iowa Hawkeye and NFL veteran, Julian Vandervelde signs with the Quad-City Steamwheelers at the Steamwheelers office on Wednesday.

GARY KRAMBECK / Lee News Network

Julian Vandervelde was sold last summer when rumors of a Quad-City Steamwheelers return first surfaced.

However, the Davenport-bred NFL veteran needed nearly a calendar year to convince his wife Paula he needed to be an on-field part of any local indoor football revival.

With grudging approval finally from "The Boss," as Vandervelde put it Thursday, the Davenport Central grad and former University of Iowa standout signed a contract with the Wheelers.

"This was just the right time for us and for the team," Vandervelde said after slipping on a jersey with his name and familiar No. 63.

"There was a need with a center getting pulled up to the CFL last week, and there was even more of a desire to be involved for my part."

Vandervelde has watched from the sidelines, even performing the National Anthem at a home game last month, while the Wheelers (5-3) have won five of their last six games to get in position to host a playoff opener next month.

The team has drawn well, too, averaging better than 5,000 fans per game.

"I remember the Thunder, and the Mallards in the old days, and the Steamwheelers when they were first here," Vandervelde said, listing off title-winning local minor-league franchises of the past.

"This community can be truly spectacular when it rallies around its sports teams, and they've got a nice love affair going here. So we have a chance to do something special, and that's really exciting."

Vandervelde retired from the NFL after the 2015 season.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder played 18 games for the Philadelphia Eagles, who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Vandervelde also was on the practice squad for the Tampa Buy Buccaneers in 2012, and owns the dubious record for being released more times (21) than anyone in an NFL career.

The 30-year-old was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection at Iowa (2007-10) as well as second team All-Big Ten in 2010.

"I still have some gas left in the tank, and I think this will be fun," Vandervelde said about the decision to play again. "I know a bunch of these guys from when we were in high school, and to be out on the field with them will be a lot of fun."

Vandervelde also dabbled in local semi-pro teams such as the Wolfpack and Raiders with Wheelers such as Maurice Harris and Ryan Brophy, "but it never really satisfied the itch," he said, while also trying to fill the competitive void by helping coach at his high school alma mater and participate the last two summers in the Highland Games.

"This is a passion more than anything else, and one of the things I felt about my time in the NFL was it was such a business. Guys were playing for money more than for the love of the game," he said. "This is a way to get that college feel back, that we're all here for a purpose — it's about community and advancement and playing for the guy next to you."

The Wheelers also fit nicely into Vandervelde's life as a family man and local businessman.

The market president for Moxie Solar has two young children with his Realtor wife, son Azrael (5) and daughter Elondra (2).

"I like the fact everybody on this team works another job," said Vandervelde, who just moved from Bettendorf back to Davenport, right next to fellow Wheeler Keyvan Rudd's parents. "We're all fathers, husbands, working dudes, out in the community just trying to provide for our families."

Besides receiving his wife's blessing, the only other cause for pause was the rust Vandervelde needs to knock off after sitting out for two full seasons.

"I chase my daughter around; that's my conditioning right now," Vandervelde joked. "So it will take a little time to get into what I would consider game shape.

"But it's not a process I'm unfamiliar with — I've done some pretty crazy body transformations in short periods of time. I won't come back to 19-year-old Julian running gassers until I puke, but it's a process I'm excited to get back into.

"Fortunately, one of the things we worked hard on at Iowa is the idea of playing through exhaustion. So I'm not worried about playing tired mentally as I am in how my body will respond."

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