Thanksgiving: Recovering Addict Finds New Life On GVSU Football Team
Alton Voss was a star athlete in high school, who had thrown away his opportunity to play college football due to a crippling drug addiction.
But then came an arrest in West Michigan, and a local woman who gave him a fighting chance at a new life.
When the Grand Valley State football team takes the field this weekend at Lubbers Stadium for the NCAA Division II playoffs, the oldest player on the field will be the one who's the most thankful.
28 year old Alton Voss' Thanksgiving story starts in New Port Richey, FL where he was the star player on his high school football team and headed to the University of South Florida on a full ride scholarship to play quarterback.
In a feature written by columnist Jeff Siedel in the Detroit Free Press, Voss revealed that a friend introduced him to Oxycontin his senior year of high school, and his football plans were derailed. Voss was sent on a spiral of addiction and blown chances to get back on the field.
He eventually found himself in Holland, where he was busted for stealing a car. It was there he met Jane Patterson, a lawyer who helped him plead down his auto theft case, and saw something in him that others didn't.
Patterson became convinced that he didn't stand a chance going back to Florida, where the drug temptations in his home town would be great, so she helped Voss get into a drug rehabilitation program in Argentina. Two years later, he emerged clean and stronger and wanting to play football again.
Patterson, through friends, arranged a meeting with Grand Valley football coach Matt Mitchell, who decided to give Voss a shot as a walk on. Three years later, Voss will start at defensive end this weekend against Texas A&M - Commerce as the Lakers begin their quest for the Division II title.
His teammates have dubbed him 'Grampa' because he's even older than his defensive line coach.
Voss was named the winner of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Jack McAvoy Award for outstanding character and leadership on the filed and inthe classroom. According to the team's web site, Voss is an active public speaker to a wide variety of groups across West Michigan. Voss is also active in community service trips and youth football camps.
Voss, who also earned First-Team All-GLIAC honors in addition to his McAvoy Award, ranks fourth on the team and first among defensive linemen in tackles with 52 (16 solo/36 assisted).
“He is family,” Patterson told the Detroit Free Press' Jeff Seidel. “My girls call him their brother. He spends the night with us on Christmas Eve and he gets up with us and does stocking and comes to all of our family functions.”
Voss calls Patterson “my Michigan mom.” “Whatever a mom does, she does,” he said. “She is my rock. She is a mentor. She’s a friend.”