Eddie Vanderdoes makes a big impression on just about everybody, including major college scouts.
By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor
It’s not easy to keep a low profile in Auburn.
The bucolic foothill town with a rich Gold Rush history can certainly be one where everybody knows your name.
Keeping a low profile is even harder when one stands 6-foot-4 inches tall and tips the scales at 305 pounds. Add lofty expectations for the Placer High football team on your shoulders and college recruiters from across the country coming into town to follow your every move, and the profile is almost bigger than the dome atop the Placer County Courthouse on the edge of town.
Such is the case for Eddie Vanderdoes.
The area’s top football talent recently joined USC’s impressive recruiting class with a verbal commitment to head coach Lane Kiffin. And despite such a big presence in a small town — he was tabbed “The Floor Safe” by Sacramento Bee preps writer Joe Davidson, and Auburn restaurant Local Heroes has already added the Big Eddie Burger to its menu — Vanderdoes remains humble.
“You would never know that he’s been through what he has been through,” Placer head coach Joey Montoya said of his defensive lineman’s recruitment process since last football season ended. “Eddie is a high character kid who always puts the team ahead of himself. He is special.”
Vanderdoes has always had a special talent for getting to quarterbacks and shutting down opponents’ offenses. Eddie started his football journey at the Pee Wee level, but it was not until his sophomore season at Placer — his first on varsity — that Vanderdoes gained a grasp of what he could get out of the game.
“My first year of varsity football really brought a lot out of me,” he said. “It wasn’t until then, when I saw that I could compete at that level, that I realized that maybe I could play Division I football.”
Many others quickly realized Eddie’s talent and huge potential, starting one of the Sacramento area’s most prominent recruiting processes. As a junior, coaches and recruiters
began to keep close watch on Vanderdoes and the Hillmen’s run to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs (Placer lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion and CIF State Bowl participant, Del Oro-Loomis).
When National Signing Day concluded in early February, schools set their sights on the next group of talent. The race was on to court Eddie.
More than 50 schools offered Vanderdoes a scholarship between February and July, including nearly every Pac-12 school and national football powers Alabama, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. Letters, texts, phone calls, and visits occupied Eddie, his family, and coaches.
In April, USC sent assistant coach Clay Helton to Auburn to document Eddie’s every move for a full day. Helton filmed Vanderdoes in the classroom, weight room, and onto the baseball field where Eddie dominates at the plate and on the mound. Vanderdoes rose to the occasion with three hits in a Pioneer Valley League game against rival Colfax, including a towering home run.
Eddie’s ability to handle the high-stress routine of big-time college recruitment does not change the fact that the process can be challenging, especially for teenagers.
“My whole life completely changed,” Eddie said of being a national recruit. “It was amazing to get all of that recognition, and I really didn’t expect to get as many offers as I did. It has truly been a blessing and an honor to get the recognition.”
After narrowing his choices to 15 and then 10, Vanderdoes contacted Kiffin on July 11 to let the coach know that he had decided to join the Trojans. While the commitment is non-binding and won’t be official until a Letter of Intent is signed and faxed to the school on National Signing Day (Feb. 6, 2013), it signaled the end of the most difficult and stressful part of the process.
“It was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders,” Vanderdoes said. “That was a distraction that I could get off of my mind, so that I could live my life a little more. I could focus on my team, my grades, and just being a teenager again.”
Of course, Eddie is no ordinary teenager. Not in his hometown, where folks are hungry for a league title that has eluded the Hillmen football team for more than a decade (Placer won the Sierra Foothill League in 1998). Many locals and plenty of high school football “experts” see this year’s team as the school’s best hope of returning to that glory.
Montoya, whose grandfather, Bill Miller, led Placer to five SJS crowns in an eight-year span during the 1970s and early 80s, has more talent than ever and would love to return his alma mater to the top. The Hillmen return numerous contributors from last year’s team, which finished 9-3 and averaged more than 40 points per game, but Montoya said his team’s focus and expectations are on a weekly basis.
In addition to Vanderdoes, the Hillmen return seniors Peter Denham at quarterback, Michael Robinson at halfback and Stone Sander at tight end. All three are getting serious looks from recruiters. Placer’s Wing-T offense may not score at the rate of the 2011 team, but Montoya expects plenty of excitement, especially if Vanderdoes sees time at fullback and tight end.
“We don’t have to talk about the league title because they all know about it,” Montoya said. “We have been in the league title game four years in a row, so the kids’ expectations are high. We don’t talk specifically about league or section because our goal is to play well each week and get better every week.”
Vanderdoes echoed his coach’s sentiments about playing one game at a time, but admitted that the ultimate goal for every team is to win a league title and get to the section playoffs.
“Right now, our focus is on Game One (at small school powerhouse Central Catholic-Modesto on Aug. 31),” he said. “I think that our biggest problem in the past has been looking too far ahead and focusing on the future.”
Vanderdoes understands that teams may target him and that he will see lots of double- and triple-teams to shut down the area’s biggest recruit. The senior leader sees the added attention paid to him as an opportunity for his teammates to step up and seize the spotlight to aid the team’s success. He sees his role as a captain being as important as his role of a defensive stopper on the playing field.
“It’s crucial that I’m a leader,” Vanderdoes said. “It’s my third year of varsity football and I know that I have a big impact on the team. They look to me for answers and follow how I react, so I have to be a leader with my actions and be willing to do what it takes to help my teammates.”
The best way Vanderdoes can help the Hillmen is with his physical talents. Montoya says those talents are like nothing he has ever coached before.
“I’ve never had anything close to the talent and skill level that he has,” Montoya said. “He moves like a running back and is as strong as they come. Those combinations don’t come around often, especially for us (at Placer). We have a real family atmosphere with this team and with the town. He’s like a mini celebrity and he’s always in the middle of things. People gravitate toward him and it’s neat to see him embrace it.”
“THE FLOOR SAFE” TAKES A PHOTO SHOOT WITH A FLOOR SAFE
Special Thanks to Liberty Safe Co.
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