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Eagles' Vandervelde can do a number on you

JULIAN VANDERVELDE was heartened by the reaction he got from Eagles fans after singing the national anthem for Flight Night Sunday, praise flowing both at the Linc and later, on Twitter.

JULIAN VANDERVELDE was heartened by the reaction he got from Eagles fans after singing the national anthem for Flight Night Sunday, praise flowing both at the Linc and later, on Twitter.

"People in this city, if they think you suck, they're going to tell you," reserve guard Vandervelde (@BirdNerdJV73) said Monday. "Nobody's shy in Philadelphia, so I know that the national anthem was good, or else I'd be getting Twitter comments like, 'Oh, no, you suck, you should never sing again.' "

Vandervelde had done the anthem thing before, for Bill and Hillary Clinton during a 2008 Iowa appearance, and the same for President Obama in Iowa City in 2010. He said he had hoped to get a choir scholarship to college, had football not worked out. He sings for a metal band called Bigger on the Inside back home in Davenport, Iowa. You can find it on Facebook.

"I've been on big stages before this . . . You get a little stressed out, a little nervous, you don't want to forget the words," Vandervelde said Sunday night. "Once you get out there, once you're in your element, you put it on autopilot and everything flies.

"Singing's definitely my second passion. I love it, and this is definitely one of the highlights of my singing career."

Vandervelde said his offensive linemates knew of his singing, and weren't particularly surprised Sunday, but other teammates were astonished.

"Julian's an incredible talent; he has an amazing voice," guard Evan Mathis said. "He's given us a few songs during training camp, so we knew what he had to offer, and we knew he was going to blow it out of the water."

Vandervelde, 6-2, 300, a fifth-round pick in 2011 from Iowa, got into just one game as a rookie. This year, hoping to add value through versatility, he is among three players auditioning to play center behind starter Jason Kelce - there also are Steve Vallos, a former Brown and Seahawk, and 3-year practice-squad veteran Dallas Reynolds, who has spent so much time on that unit, he might have earned naming rights.

"I felt like I didn't have my best game" Friday night in Cleveland, an outing that included a botched center exchange, Vandervelde said Monday. "I'm always my hardest critic. [But] the film's never as good or as bad as you think it's going to be. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. But the botched snap, I haven't been playing center long but I feel like I'm at the point where that should never happen. On a kickoff return, I missed a block I thought I should have made . . . The little details are what kill you in the NFL."

He said he sees lots of progress from his rookie year, though. Back then, Vandervelde was being touted for having picked up offensive-line coach Howard Mudd's scheme quicker than first-round rookie Danny Watkins. Vandervelde said when he reviews film of those days, that isn't quite what he sees.

"Watching the film from last preseason, I was horrible," he said. "I have no idea how I made this team last year - no idea. To see my progress from last year to this year, personally, is a great accomplishment for me."

Vandervelde said he gets more nervous playing than when he's singing the anthem.

"The anthem, it's short and then it's over. As long as you don't screw up the words, nobody really messes with you," he said. "Football, you're out there for 2, 3 hours, and it's play after play after play. You never know what play could be a touchdown; a sack could get the quarterback hurt. Every single play is kind of a new stress."

On the other hand, Vandervelde admitted he had a moment of panic as he walked out to the 50-yard line Sunday, when he convinced himself he'd forgotten the words to the second verse.

"You think you're good until you're actually standing there," he said. "Then all of a sudden everything just gets kind of jumbled up inside your head."

Other than his anthem appearances, Vandervelde said his top singing gig was at the dinner before the Alamo Bowl his freshman year at Iowa.

"I sang 'The Music of the Night' from 'Phantom of the Opera,' for our team, and Texas was there, and all the family and friends and everything. I got a standing ovation from Texas, which was pretty cool," Vandervelde recalled.

Mathis said the o-line is familiar with Vandervelde's "Phantom" rendition.

"I heard that his karaoke go-to song is 'Africa' by Toto," Mathis said. "I haven't gotten that out of him yet. He said I have to make it to a karaoke performance to see that one. I'm looking forward to that."

Backing his 'backers

Sure seems as if the Eagles are always looking for something they don't have in their linebacking mix; all three starters changed during the 2011 season, and Sunday marked the first change of the 2012 season, when Akeem Jordan replaced Brian Rolle on the weakside.

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo likes his group, though, he said Monday.

"They're athletic. They can run. They're tough. They're hungry. I think what [DeMeco Ryans] has added is, Meco has that experience . . . Now, all of a sudden, the kids see how they're supposed to watch tape, how they're supposed to act on the field. Meco's a no-nonsense type guy, and a guy who's been in the league and done it . . . You take that, mixed with athletic kids, athletic guys, now you have a good group," Castillo said Monday.

Castillo said Jordan has "had one of the better training camps since I've been around." He said coaches initially were mildly pleased to see Jordan making plays and leading the second defensive unit. Then they saw him making more and more plays, and started to think about moving him up.