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Keokuk native Vandenberg in ‘special’ position

[ 3 ] June 28, 2011 |

Iowa City, Ia. — He’s got the meet-and-greet stuff down to a tee.

On Sept. 3, James Vandenberg can only hope he is the passing fancy some expect.

That’s when Iowa, with Vandenberg at the quarterbacking helm, opens the season against Tennessee Tech at Kinnick Stadium. That’s the first time since whatshisname was the last Iowa native to start a Hawkeye season under center.

James Vandenberg is set to become the first Iowan quarterback to start a season since Kyle McCann in 2001. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

“Someone asked me that question two weeks ago,” said Vandenberg, a native of Keokuk. “I took a long shot guess and said Kyle McCann in 2001.”

Bingo.

That’s the last time a native Iowan has been in the position Vandenberg finds himself, replacing NFL-bound Ricky Stanzi.

“He’ll be fine with it,” said McCann, a Creston native and attorney with the Brick-Gentry firm in Des Moines. “It’ll be a lot of fun for him; I know it was for me, because you’re playing every Saturday in front of your family.

“I know for me, it was a dream that I’d someday be the quarterback for Iowa when I grew up, and I can only imagine that holds true for (Vandenberg) now.”

Vandenberg was asked the McCann trivia question when playing golf during a fundraising outing at Wakonda Club in Des Moines.

“The group I was in shot 14-under,” Vandenberg said Tuesday. “That’s pretty good … and they even used some of my shots.

“While we were playing a couple guys asked me the Kyle McCann question. I was lucky enough to come up with the answer.”

Vandenberg is Ricky Stanzi’s heir after completing 47-of-95 passes for 515 yards and three touchdowns the past two seasons. That includes two starts as a freshman in 2009 — an overtime loss at Ohio State  and a victory against Minnesota. He also threw five interceptions in 2009.

“How he did in that Ohio State game — on the road — should tell people how good he can be,” Stanzi said last month. “It took me a while to adjust to the speed of the game, but (Vandenberg) won’t have any problem with that because he’s played.

“It won’t be nearly as big of an adjustment for him because he’s already been out there.”

Vandenberg also has been “out there” on the handshaking tour — he’s an intern for the University of Iowa Foundation, a fundraising arm of the university.

“I write thank-you’s, I call people … I  grab my boss coffee,” Vandenberg said. “I got to go to a couple of the I-Club events, and I met a million people. That was cool. It’s been a good experience so far.”

His experience changes when practice opens next month. As the quarterback, he’ll be the face of the program.

“Obviously, it’s a huge step,” Vandenberg said. “I’m ready for it.”

To carry the Iowa flag — specifically for Keokuk.

“He won’t feel any more pressure than what already comes with the position,” McCann said. “In my conversations with coach (Kirk) Ferentz and coach (Ken) O’Keefe — I know they speak highly of him. Physically, he’s got all the tools.

“As far as being an Iowan starting at quarterback, it was special for me, and I’m sure it will be special for him.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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