After his team's dominant win, three-star offensive lineman Josh Volk discussed his development and recruitment. Matthew Bain, Sports writer
CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — Normally, football players take their helmets off for postgame interviews.
But after Cedar Rapids Xavier's win over Davenport Assumption last Friday, Josh Volk kept his helmet on. He kept his sentences short, too, and jogged off the field as quickly as he could when the interview ended.
"I’m not very good at public speaking. So when you guys first interviewed me," Volk told the Register this week, "I was way nervous."
That’s Volk for you — a menacing lineman with a quiet soul.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound wrecking ball is considered one of the best 2020 offensive lineman prospects in the Midwest. Iowa and Iowa State have already offered, and Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Vanderbilt have expressed interest. Ask any Iowa high school coach and they’ll tell you: Volk is a beast.
Off the field, it’s a different story.
Volk is shy. Like, really shy. He said he feels especially comfortable playing football because, with a helmet and face mask, he can be just another player. He dreads class presentations, too. He remembers one assignment last year where he had to write a poem and read it in front of his class.
"It was bad," he said, laughing at the memory.
Volk is also a kind soul. He’s eager to do his chores at home, which consist of tending to the 20 goats and 60 chickens on the Volk family's property. Back in elementary school, Josh's dad, Ed Volk, remembers his son serving as full-time referee when he and his friends would play basketball or football at recess.
Because Josh was always big for his age, and he only knows how to play sports aggressively. He didn’t want to injure his friends.
"He didn't want to make enemies. He didn’t want to hurt their feelings," Ed Volk said. "He is not a mean person in real life. He’s nice to a fault. But when he gets that helmet on, he’s mean.
"He’s courteous and polite and soft-spoken — and mean as heck on the football field."
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when a prospect emerges on the regional recruiting scene. But, at least to the Register, there was one play during last year’s state football tournament when Volk announced himself as a rising star.
It came in the Class 3A semifinal against Solon. He was playing right tackle and exploded off his spot to become a lead blocker for his quarterback, Quinn Schulte, who was running to the left.
Then, Volk quickly and convincingly blocked Iowa State linebacker recruit Coal Flansburg and South Dakota State linebacker recruit Adam Bock one after the other. He removed them from the play and cleared a path for Schulte.
Volk was just a raw sophomore at the time — a "young puppy," Xavier head coach Duane Schultz says. And, even so, he handled two junior, Division I-bound linebackers on the state’s best defense within seconds.
Since then, Volk’s stock has surged. He is now a consensus three-star prospect rated the No. 14 junior offensive guard in the country by 247Sports. He is a mobile, powerful multi-sport athlete who projects well as an offensive guard in college.
"He’s been under a lot of pressure, and I give him a lot of credit," Duane Schulte said. "It’s hard for someone to go through that stuff when you’re a 16-year-old kid. But he’s stayed humble and is definitely putting his team first. That’s the thing that’s most impressive to me. He could be, 'Hey I’m this and I’m that,' but he doesn't do that. He’s more worried about his team than anybody else."
With an increased recruiting stock comes increased pressure and expectations.
Volk said he felt like "just another guy" last year. Now, as he surrounds his high school games with recruiting visits to Iowa, Iowa State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Nebraska, Volk said he’s acclimating to his new role.
"Everything is up from last year," he said. "I’m the top dog, which is what my coach says, of the line. 'You are our leader. You’ve got to lead the line.' And it’s just like, 'That’s me. I’ve got to do that.' It was an eye-opener when he told me that. But I’ve just fit into the spot and took over and moved along."
Added Ed Volk: "His focus is there. What’s nice is the coaches all have the same message. Whether he’s talking with Northwestern (or whoever), they tell him: 'This year, at school, is really, really important. You’ve got to keep your nose to the grindstone and you’ve got to get good grades.' It doesn’t matter whether it’s Brian Ferentz, Matt Campbell or any of those guys. They’re all giving him that positive information."
When it comes to making any recruiting decision, the Volks are in no rush.
Ed Volk said that, especially with the new early signing period, you tend to feel more pressure to commit every time you talk to a coach. But he thinks patience is the right approach.
"The last thing I ever want Josh to do is to commit somewhere and then de-commit," he said. "Let’s make absolutely sure that the environment that you feel most comfortable in is the one you go to."
The Volks feel comfortable holding off on an early decision because, other than Ohio State, none of the schools that have offered or are interested in Josh have any 2020 offensive linemen recruits.
"Once those kids start making decisions, we might have to jump on board," Ed Volk said. "But I don’t think there’s any need to right now."
Josh was at Kinnick Stadium last Saturday for the Hawkeyes’ win over Iowa State. Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek watched Volk the day prior during Xavier’s win over Davenport Assumption.
"It’s gone well (with Iowa)," Ed Volk said. "They’ve treated him well. I think they respect the process."
This Saturday, Josh will be at Jack Trice Stadium for the Cyclones’ game against Oklahoma. He was also in Ames for Iowa State’s canceled season opener against South Dakota State.
"Coach Campbell and (offensive line) coach (Jeff) Myers have been phenomenal," Ed Volk said. "Right before the South Dakota State game, we could sit down and talk with coach Myers and just B.S. with him for 15 minutes. That was a good experience."
When it comes time to making a decision, Josh Volk said he just wants to find a place where he can feel at home.
He feels at home on his family's acreage, with the goats and chickens. He feels at home on a football field. He feels at home at North Liberty-based The Strength U, where he works most Sundays with his trainer, JC Moreau.
Except, not this Sunday. He's got to create a poster so he can ask his girlfriend to the homecoming dance. His posters are known to be creative, sweet and thoughtful.
That's Volk for you.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.