Veldman is from the small Minnesota town of Becker, which boasted a population of 4,538 in the last census. He played his college football at North Dakota State and went undrafted last year.
He was signed by Jacksonville as a rookie free agent. He made such an impression in training camp a year ago that he was going to make the roster as the third tight end.
The Jaguars had all but decided it early in the third preseason game before Veldman tore an ACL in the second have of that game and was forced to spend the rest of the season on injured reserve.
“I honestly felt sorry for myself for a day,” said Veldman, who the Lions signed after a workout in June.
“Then, I talked with my family. They’ve always been there for me and been a steady, consistent shoulder to lean on. They said, ‘Matt, how many people get to redshirt in the NFL?’ Because that’s basically what it was for me. A chance to mentally see what the game is like, while still being involved.”
He wasn’t playing, but Veldman (6-7, 255) said he still learned a lot over the course of the 2012 season and is hoping he gets a chance to apply some of that knowledge on the field with the Lions in 2013. It just so happens the Lions are on the lookout for a third tight end behind
“All I’ve ever asked for my entire life is a chance,” Veldman said Saturday after practice. “I’m a small-town kid, small-school kid, undrafted kid.”
The one benefit Veldman has in Detroit is that new Lions tight end coach Bobby Johnson held the same role in Jacksonville last season and knows Veldman’s game well.
“I’m used to his coaching style,” Veldman said of Johnson. “I know what he means by certain things. The way he wants certain blocks done.
“I knew when I got the call to come here this would be a good spot for me. Good system, good scheme, good quarterback. When I got the call I knew this would be a second chance for me.”
Veldman was adamant that he wasn’t going to get down on himself after the injury last year, but admitted it was tough to watch the Jaguars’ Week 1 game.
“I had had surgery and I was just in the hotel room laid up and feeling pretty sore and I was sitting there with my dad and the first game Jacksonville had was in Minnesota,” Veldman said. “So, I would have played my first game in front of my entire family. Throughout the whole rehab, that was the toughest part for me.”
It’ll be weeks before we know if Veldman did enough in training camp and the preseason this time around to make this 53-man roster. If he ultimately does, though, the Lions face Minnesota Week 1 at Ford Field. The Veldman family will probably take a road trip for that one.