Alton Voss enjoyed success as the quarterback at Gulf High School under then-head football coach Jay Fulmer. Voss is now listed on the Grand Valley State roster as a tight end but he might also play on defense. Tribune file photo
BY ANDY VILLAMARZO Tribune correspondent
Published: July 12, 2013
Updated: July 12, 2013 at 10:59 PM
HOLIDAY - There are many decisions former Gulf High football standout Alton Voss wishes he could go back and change. But that's not the mindset these days.
One of the best decisions Voss made was finding help for himself during a dark time in his life.
In Summer 2006, Voss was Scout.com's 36th-ranked quarterback in the nation and committed to the University of South Florida over Mississippi State and West Virginia. However, staying close to home ended up not working out the way anyone envisioned.
Voss was using prescription pills like OxyContin during his time at USF, and he eventually left the football team in July 2008.
After he was arrested in Michigan, an opportunity by Voss' lawyer, Jane Patterson, changed his life.
"We gave him an opportunity, and Alton did the work," Patterson said. "If you know Alton, you know there's something different with him. What I've always said is he's good with a capital G. He wanted to get help. When I first met him, he was big and had a big beard and looked like a thug somewhat. But what I really saw is the young man we all see today. What drew me to him was he's honest and humbled."
Voss' stepfather, Robin Burge, raised Alton while he was at Gulf Middle and Gulf High, but he didn't know how to cope with Voss' prescription-drug addiction. Burge praises Patterson for helping lead Voss down the right track.
"(Alton) was heavily involved with drugs for three years," Burge said. "It's taken five years right out of his life if you include the rehab treatment, but it has been a good thing for him. Through the spirit of a lot of people involved, he's made a heck of a comeback."
CMI Abasto, a medical treatment center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is where Voss has spent the past two years getting clean, and since he's been at the facility, he's stayed sober. Voss eventually found football again in Argentina and helped lead the nation's team to victory against Uruguay in a bowl game this year. Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich., has since made an offer, and Voss will get to play college football after all.
Voss was also invited to help out at Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' football camp and meet the NFL quarterback.
"Everyone has welcomed me with open arms," Voss said. "Being able to come back from Argentina to the States is great, but I will always call that country home. Without me living over there, I wouldn't be the man I am today. To be able to come away and tell people my story, I feel really blessed. Taking care of myself is the No. 1 option."
Former Gulf and current Ridgewood coach Jay Fulmer knows Voss from his last two seasons at Gulf, in which the spread-option quarterback in 2005 rushed and threw for more than 1,000 yards. Fulmer said Voss has kept close contact with him throughout the rehab process and is happy to see Voss get back onto the college playing field.
"He's always been a strong-willed kid," Fulmer said. "I knew if he ever wanted to be clean and straight, that he could. He's always had the ability to do so. He took the help of some great people and really did good. I'm looking forward to him playing in a college game. He's going to be the old man on the squad, being 25 years old. He should be a great role model to anybody on his team."
Fulmer used Voss as a two-way starter at Gulf and believes his future, potentially playing professionally, will be on defense at linebacker. Voss is listed as a 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore tight end on Grand Valley State's 2013 roster.
"They have him listed at tight end, but I'm hoping he gets the chance to play defense," Fulmer said. "But I'm really glad he's got another opportunity. He's a very fortunate individual to have a second chance."
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.