Sunday, December 10, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Addiction vanquished, it's on to age and the NFL for Alton Voss

Physically, Alton Voss belies his birth certificate. His 6-foot-3, 260-pound frame doesn't bear the welts or surgical scars of other football players his age.

"I made it through college pretty healthy, so I don't have the wear and tear on my body," the former Gulf High two-way force of nature said. "And I don't feel 28."

But therein lies the gripping paradox that has made Alton William Voss IV arguably the most intriguing prospect of this NFL draft season: An edge rusher oozing robustness already has lived the life of three men.

Toss in his trials and travels, his self-infliction and stunning resurrection, and Voss is 28 going on Methuselah.

"Yes, I'm not your typical prospect coming out of college because of my age and my story and all that stuff," said Voss, who just wrapped up a solid four-year career at Division II power Grand Valley (Mich.) State. "But I look at those things as more of a positive than negative."

Voss' improbable story has been well-chronicled locally and nationally, and told — by him — to roughly two-dozen audiences of all types throughout Michigan.

A heralded USF signee in 2007, he relinquished his scholarship with the Bulls the following summer, just as he was beginning his initial descent into drug addiction.

He bottomed out when he was arrested in the winter of 2011 for attempting to steal a Pontiac Grand-Am in Holland, Mich. Through the help of a benevolent defense attorney, he spent two years at a treatment center in Argentina, got his legal problems wiped clean, then got a shot at resuscitating his career at GVSU.

"Alton has embraced every opportunity given him and absolutely made the most of each and every one of them with a heart filled with gratitude," said Jane Patterson, the attorney who has evolved into a second mother to Voss.

Now, Voss is hoping some NFL club will take a gamble similar to the one coach Matt Mitchell took in 2013, when he allowed Voss to walk on at Grand Valley State.

"When it really comes down to it," Voss said, "I'm just asking for a chance."

The brawn is as unmistakable as the baggage. Division II opposition notwithstanding, Voss' burst off the line and ceaseless motor show through on tape. A converted tight end, he totaled 71/2 sacks and forced five fumbles over his last two seasons.

A Sports Illustrated feature on Voss indicated some NFL teams took notice of him while scouting teammate Matt Judon, a fifth-round pick of the Ravens last spring. He will try to make an in-person impression at GVSU's on-campus pro day Monday.

"Coach Mitchell is always telling us you are what you put on tape, so I hope I've put a good product on tape," said Voss, whose daily workout routine spans several hours and two different training centers near Grand Valley.

"Some of the scouts have come through and checked it out. They like what they see. So yeah, to be at this position now, it is extremely surreal, but I knew it was gonna come."

The realistic aspiration, Voss says, is to sign with a club as an undrafted free agent then perhaps get invited to a minicamp. Canada also is a possibility.

If nothing pans out, Voss has so maximized his GVSU opportunity that he now has fallback options. He graduated in December with a communication studies degree, and he remains in demand as a public speaker, Patterson said.

But before embarking on the microphone circuit, he'd like a chance to add one more improbable chapter to a story teeming with them.

"The story is great. I mean, it's inspirational I think, and … hopefully it helps people," Voss said. "But I want people to know I'm a great football player, too."

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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