This is a sample of how much of a big deal Eddie Vanderdoes is in Placer County.
The hamburger joint “Local Heroes” in Auburn, just down the street from Placer High School, has for years featured a hamburger named after the UCLA defensive tackle who will soon be compensated handsomely for his ability to devour ball carriers in the NFL.
“The Big Eddie.”
For a tidy $12, the burger could feed a village. It features four 1/4 -pound patties, four slices of cheese, eight slices of bacon, two onion rings, a half a head of lettuce, a special sauce and a roll of paper towels for cleanup.
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This weekend, when the NFL draft takes center stage for America’s favorite sport, Vanderdoes will have a horde of followers curiously in tow. This won’t just be a Vanderdoes moment. It will be for his hometown celebrating an All-American kid done proud.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Vanderdoes is projected to go in the top three rounds as an athletic, hard-to-block, run-stuffing cog.
“It’s a special time for him and for all of us here,” said Joey Montoya, Placer’s longtime football coach. “He’s used to this. The amount of colleges pursuing him when he was here, the limelight in college, it prepared him for this.
“Heck, when your picture is displayed in the Rose Bowl, and it’s on our game ticket, that’s big. That’s preparation. It’s always been big with Eddie.”
Vanderdoes said he is ready. He jokes that he’s been ready his entire life. He is a jovial, free-spirit who turns serious in competition, warding off double teams in the trenches, pursuing ball carriers. He was a 5-star recruit at Placer, the proverbial big shark in a small-school pond. He was a freshman All-American before injuries stalled progress.
Vanderdoes missed all but the season opener of the 2015 season with a torn left ACL. He labored in 2016 with a strained knee, a tender ankle and various bone bruises, though he showed enough promise to declare himself NFL draft ready.
Vanderdoes sparkled in drills at the Senior Bowl in Alabama and impressed scouts at the NFL Combine and at UCLA’s Pro Day last month on the school’s campus under the watchful eye of UCLA line coach Angus McClure, the one-time Sacramento State lineman star.
Wrote Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline: “Vanderdoes exceeded expectations in every way (at Senior Bowl practices). He beat blockers off the snap with his great first step, bull-rushed them off the line with surprising power and also showed terrific hand technique to keep opponents away from him. More than anything else, Vanderdoes outplayed and outhustled everyone he lined up against.”
Said McClure, “I tell scouts that Eddie is the most explosive athlete I’ve ever coached. When he hits a sled, he hits it so hard, there’s a different sound, a different octave. He’s athletic, and his toughness is uncommon. Eddie’s the big personality in any room, and he’s always liked by his teammates. Very intriguing prospect.”
Vanderodes worked over his mind and body at the EXOS performance center in Phoenix. From footwork, agility, technique and explosiveness, EXOS readies athletes for pre-draft workouts. Body recovery, media training and big-picture discussions are also part of the EXOS experience.
Insight from a nutritionist helped shed new light to Vanderdoes on how to eat better. Big Eddie cannot chow on “The Big Eddie” so much anymore. His body is his livelihood now. Vanderdoes dropped 35 pounds from his playing weight of last fall and proclaimed himself to look and feel the part of a prospect.
“I feel really good,” Vanderdoes said. “I’m definitely happy with where I am right now. I wanted to lose the pounds and did. I made a plan at EXOS, and the nutritionist educated me, including meal portions.”
Vanderdoes has never been afraid of work. He said he gleaned that from his parents – Eddie and Behia Vanderdoes. He knows a town shares his joy, his physical hurt from football, his ambition of an NFL future.
“It was instilled into me early to work, to push, including Coach Montoya in high school,” Vanderdoes said. “It’s crazy how fast this has gone by. Faster every year. Oh my goodness. I know my family is sharing this with me and they’re happy for me.”
Montoya knew he had a specimen when Vanderdoes was a sophomore, plucked from the junior varsity ranks to mingle with athletes his own size.
“We were doing a 1-on-1 double-team drill, and Eddie was going against two stud senior linemen who went on to play college ball,” Montoya said. “Eddie was beating them soundly, and one of the guys looks at me, ‘Coach, there’s nothing we can do.’ Yeah, probably right. That’s when I knew he was special. And when you have a kid as good of a guy as he is, you can’t help but root for him.”
Said Vanderdoes’ father, “It’s all happened so fast, and he’s handled it so well. So quick, and then you hit the pause button and, bam! He has the knee injury at UCLA. To go from being an integral part of the team to not, it was hard for him and all of us. He had to grow up really quick. He was forced to. I wasn’t concerned about the knee as much as I was concerned about Eddie. And he’s fine.”
Being the parent of an NFL prospect has a downside, too.
“It’s always the, ‘Is he going to buy you a house?’ joke,” Vanderdoes’ father said. “I don’t like that. That’s not what this is about.”
Vanderdoes and family will camp out at the home of his agent Jeremy Newberry in the Bay Area for the draft.
“I tell (NFL scouts) that I can offer a lot of versatility on the defensive line,” Vanderdoes said. “I can bring a lot of disruptiveness. I’m excited. I just want to find out where I’ll be going, where I’ll be living. A lot of anticipation, and it’s time.”