VandenHeuvel, fan club, ready for Madison

High school all-star game in the books, offensive tackle looks ahead to being a Badger

Eric VandenHeuvel had his own fan club in attendance at Saturday night's Shrine Bowl all-star football game in Oshkosh.

Holding a sign that said "We love 71" and wearing T-shirts proclaiming their support, the future Badger offensive lineman, a 2005 graduate of Hudson High School, had plenty of friends and family there to cheer him on. They greeted the 6-foot-7, 335-pound tackle on the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titan Stadium field after the game and took pictures with him — the usual fare after the high school all-star football games. Take pictures, laugh, smile and get pulled in 15 directions by family, friends, coaches and fans, who want to say congratulations and wish you well.

"A lot of my family lives in Oshkosh and Green Bay, so they just kind of all came down and some of my friends came down from Hudson," VandenHeuvel said. "It was really nice (to have the support)."

In his final game as a high school athlete, VandenHeuvel played on the offensive line for the North all stars, who recorded zero net yards rushing (44 yards gained and lost) and 215 yards passing.

"I think the first half was kind rough for us. We had that one deep pass (a 75-yard touchdown pass)," VandenHeuvel said. "I think the second half, we really turned it up."

Although the North lost 16-14, it had a late offensive surge and drove 54 yards down the field to the South 25, where Matt Droher missed a field goal with five seconds left.

VandenHeuvel spent some of the game lining up against defensive end Reed Cunningham, a Northern Illinois recruit, who finished with a three-yard sack on North quarterback Alex Smith.

"He's good, he's good," VandenHeuvel said of Cunningham. "He got the better of me a couple of times but we both had a good game."

Now VandenHeuvel is opening a new chapter in his life. Already living in Madison, he is preparing for fall camp and his first season as a Badger, as well as his first year as a college student and a potential pre-medical major.

"It's pretty tough and I was thinking about it, it's going to be quite a challenge, it really would," VandenHeuvel said Saturday, regarding the balance between academics and college football.

He is also meeting his new teammates, including freshman guard Andy Kemp, and "conditioning up to [the next] level." VandenHeuvel said he is bench pressing 420 pounds and has not done squats "in the longest time." VandenHeuvel, who said he thinks he may end up as a left tackle, said he is not sure if he will redshirt or not.

VandenHeuvel will room with defensive lineman Jeff Stehle in Ogg Hall next fall. He is also getting acquainted with his new surroundings.

"I've kind of been walking around campus, getting to know where my classes are and kind of getting a feel for campus, like so I know where I'm going when I get down there," VandenHeuvel said. "Mostly just workouts."

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