A lot has changed since Earl Volz graduated from high school.
Volz is a senior at Kutztown University and since graduating from Father Judge High School in 2017, he’s been playing football for the Golden Bears.
In high school, the big defensive lineman was one of the top players in the Catholic League.
But now nearly seven years later, Volz has turned himself into a legitimate NFL prospect and is eyeing a professional career, be it at the NFL level or another league.
It’s not exactly what he expected when he got to Kutztown.
“If you would have asked me when I was at Judge? I would say no shot,” said Volz, a Tacony native. “I knew there were a few diamonds in D2 that got a shot, pro guys, but I never thought that would be me. Now more than ever, all the other leagues, D2 guys are getting a lot better shots and making names for themselves. Now more than ever especially. These past few years, more, more and more D2 guys and D3 guys. CFL, NFL, anything. XFL, guys going there, making an impact and dominating. It opens up a lot of opportunities for players.”
A professional career would be a great next step, but it will take a lot to top what Volz and his Golden Bears teammates experienced this year.
Kutztown earned a program-record seventh place ranking in the final American Football Coaches Association Division II Poll
The Bears won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, knocking off Slippery Rock in the championship, then downed Virgina Union, Charleston and Slippery Rock in the playoffs. The run ended with a loss to national runner-up Colorado School of Mines in the semifinal.
“This was a great year, we made history,” Volz said. “We went to the final four for the first time in school history. All the work we put in, especially the seniors, it’s really nice to walk away with that accomplishment.
“It was a great season. Most years, the furthest we travel to is Connecicut. I can’t complain, we went to Colorado for a football game. It was a great season. It was fun seeing Colorado. It was awesome. Their whole stadium is cut into the mountains. It was an experience of a lifetime and I got to do it with my friends.”
It didn’t just happen.
Sure, the Golden Bears had plenty of talent, but more hard work than you could imagine went into it.
Volz, who redshirted his first year at the school, is a perfect example of that.
He spent a lot of time in the weight room, spent a lot of time working out with his teammates, working with coaches and turned himself into a much better football player.
The work he put in paid off last season, and beyond.
“Honestly they developed me into a man and a better leader,” Volz said. “I taught young guys, I matured a lot, I learned how to carry myself and I got a lot better at my craft in my game. When I first got in, my first two years I just wanted to get on the field. As a redshirt sophomore, the idea creeps in that you can be pretty good. You’re putting all the time in, working so hard.”
Now that his football career at Kutztown is over, he’s starting to think about the next step, and that certainly includes the game of football.
He’s in the gym every day. He works with a speed trainer. He’s seeking out a defensive line specialist.
His pro day is in March, which means he has a few months to keep getting better. And he plans on using that time wisely.
“My life revolves around working hard,” Volz said. “I have to take it. I have to go get it. For me, it’s normal now. I created a work ethic that is normal now. I live in the gym, work out, that’s what my life revolves around. Everything revolves around the gym.
“I’m at 280, so to play defensive tackle, I’ll have to go up a little bit. D-end, I’ll get down a little. For now I’m putting on good weight, getting faster and more agile. Right now I’m on my own program, working out at home, but set up to start with a speed trainer, for sure. I am going to go out, start training at Garage Strength, up there, they work with Olympic athletes and some pro guys. I’m looking for a d-line specialist. I know what I need to do, but it’d be nice to have someone with some more knowledge.”
An NFL career would be the ultimate goal, but if football disappears tomorrow, Volz is still in great shape. And he can help you get there, too.
The sports management and entrepreneurship major hopes to one day own a gym. If he does, it’s not just about making money.
“I ended up doing an internship with our strength and conditioning,” Volz said. “I have a lot of experience in the field. Text little things, even teammates, some younger guys, I tried to take them out, create a workout ethic. They’ll text me. I’m doing this, this and this, what can I add. Definitely an experience. Texting me for info.
“My goal isn’t to train football players, though I’d love to. I just want people to live a healthy lifestyle. Be healthy and have a great life.”
For him, it will be a great way to give back.
Volz looks back fondly at the people who helped him, especially coaches over the years.
“Father Judge was great to me,” Volz said. “Especially (Jim Katerman and Mark Zataveski). They always had faith in me, always wanted what’s best for me and always helped me. And at Kutztown, (Jim) Clements has been there the whole way through. He’s helped me grow into a man.”
The coaches are special, but they’ll always come second.
Nobody comes before mom.
“My mom is my idol,” Volz said. “A single mother growing up. Everything I do is for her. She helped me grow as a man, taught me everything I know. Everything I do is for her, so I am always thankful to her. Probably 80 to 90 percent of the work I put in is for her. She did it to give me a great life, that’s always in the back of my mind. Everything I do is to pay her back for everything she’s done.”