Ten months after the fact, Dan Voltz has realized last year’s game at Illinois — in which he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in his right knee — was the last football he’d ever play.
The fifth-year senior offensive lineman announced Tuesday that he has decided to retire before his final year of eligibility with the University of Wisconsin.
While that knee injury forced him off the field for the final time, that wasn’t the breaking point for Voltz, who suffered from ankle issues in 2014 and other injuries in past years.
"There’s a couple other things going on,” said Voltz, who had been mulling the decision to retire over the past three of four days. "I won’t get into any specifics, but there are things I’ve been dealing with for a couple years.
“It’s hard. This program’s been a big part of my life for going on five years now. It’s something I deeply care about. You earn the respect of your teammates because of how hard you work and the time you put in here, so telling them that you’re no longer going to be part of it anymore, it was difficult for me. But what made that easy is, I made it clear that I’m going to remain a big part of the program. My role is just going to shift from playing to helping out in other ways."
Voltz also said his desire to live a healthy life after football played a major part in his decision to walk away from the game.
“When you’re at the point when you start thinking about life after football, your long-term health, that’s when you really have to take a step back and say, ‘Is this the best decision for my body?’” Voltz said. "It’s a selfish decision, but rightfully so. You have to make the best decision for yourself in the end, especially when it comes to your physical health because that’s something that sticks with you for the rest of your life.
"That’s definitely something that I thought about a lot making this decision. I’m 22 years old and I have a lot of life to live. I look forward to just being healthy and having a productive life after football."
Voltz was a three-year starter at center but was planning on playing left guard to allow redshirt sophomore Michael Deiter, who excelled in Voltz’s absence last season, to take over the center spot.
Voltz did not participate in spring practice but always anticipated being healthy by fall camp and playing out his final season. The Badgers had rested him throughout camp before Voltz made his decision over the weekend.
With 27 starts under his belt, Voltz was selected to the watch list for this year’s Outland Trophy, an award given to the best interior lineman in college football. He was a preseason second-team All-American selection by Sporting News in 2015 before his season was cut short.
“He can’t give the other guys experience, but he can sure help them through it,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “He’s had to prepare and go through the rigors of a season. That’s why you’re confident that he’s still going to contribute in a big way, just in a different capacity. I admire and respect his approach. He’ll add value.
"What’s exciting for us is what Dan wants to do, his future plans have to do with athletics. He can kind of turn the page and go forward. We had a discussion about that. We didn’t want him hanging on to something, and yet he’s interested in the strength training component and the coaching component maybe. I feel like it’s a way that he can transition."
Voltz, who has already graduated and is currently working on a masters degree, has three semesters left in school and plans to remain with the team over the next two seasons. He also expects to be able to stay on the sideline during games, even on the road.
“I feel like I have a lot to offer,” Voltz said. "The way football’s played nowadays, the mental side of it is such a big part. And having an extra set of eyes at practice, at games, I feel is a huge asset to the group. I’ve started quite a few games, so I feel like I have a lot to offer experience-wise. I feel like I can continue to help these guys grow and just teach them what I know and what I’ve experienced and just kind of continue that path."
Redshirt sophomore Micah Kapoi, who started the majority of games last season, likely becomes the front-runner to replace Voltz at left guard this season, although redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen could also compete for the spot.
UW has just 11 days to settle it’s starting offensive line before opening the season against LSU in Green Bay on Sept. 3.
“There isn’t (a hole) in the sense that somebody’s got to step up,” Chryst said. "Dan played a lot of good football here. You’re always going to miss that. It’s an opportunity for another to step in and step up and fill in.
“Our guys know Dan, and they know what he did every day — when he was healthy, when he wasn’t. I respect and appreciate a ton what he’s done for this university and what he’ll continue to do. … He’s so much more than just a football player."
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50 - Combined career passing and rushing touchdowns for former UW quarterback Joel Stave, tied for the sixth-most in UW history.
49 - In-state recruits signed by UW on Signing Day over the last eight recruiting classes, including four from Wisconsin in the 2016 class.
48 – Rushing attempts for running back Corey Clement in the 2015 season, the lowest number in his three years at UW.
47 – Third-down conversions out of 119 tries (39.5 percent) in Big Ten games in 2015, the highest percentage for UW since 2011.
46 – Red-zone scores for UW on 54 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in the 2015 season. Comparatively, UW opponents made a mere 25 trips inside the UW 20-yard line and scored just 19 times.
45 – Total rushing yards recorded in 2015 by fullback Derek Watt, who was still selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.
44 – Wins for UW in the Badgers’ last 50 games at Camp Randall, dating back to a 35-32 win over Minnesota in 2008.
43 – Total points UW allowed in seven games at Camp Randall in 2015. The Badgers were the only team in the country to allow less than 10 points per game at home.
42 – Total touchdowns scored by the Badgers in the 2015 season, the fewest by UW since 2008.
41 - Combined games above .500 for UW’s 2016 opponents last season. The Badgers’ 12 opponents went 98-57 last year.
40 – Extra points made out of 40 attempts by kicker Rafael Gaglianone in 2015.
39 – Career catches for Jeff Duckworth, who was hired by UW as a graduate assistant for the 2016 season.
38 – Consecutive years UW has had at least one player selected in the NFL Draft. Linebacker Joe Schobert and fullback Derek Watt were picked in 2016.
37 - Night games UW has played since 2000. The Badgers are 26-11 in that time, including an 11-2 mark at Camp Randall. UW will play at least two night games in 2016 vs. Ohio State and Nebraska at home.
36 – Combined all-time victories for UW against Michigan and Michigan State. Excluding the 1994 season, when the Spartans forfeited a win over the Badgers because of an ineligible player, the Badgers, have never beaten both teams on the road in the same season.
35 – Assistant coaches UW has employed since the start of the 2010 season, including new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard.
33 – Years since a college football game was played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. St. Norbert College played Fordham in Green Bay in 1983.
32 – Receptions by Robert Wheelwright in the 2015 season. Wheelwright leads all returning Badgers wide receivers in career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
31 – Wins by former UW quarterback Joel Stave, the most in school history. Stave finished with a career record of 31-10 as a starter.
30 – Total points scored by UW in its three losses in 2015. The Badgers scored 17 against Alabama, but managed only six against Iowa and seven vs. Northwestern.
29 – Career completions by current quarterbacks on the UW roster. All 29 have come from Bart Houston, who completed 27 passes in 2015 and one each in 2013 and 2014.
28 – Catches by Troy Fumagalli in the 2015 season, the most by a UW tight end, despite missing two nonconference games.
27 – Punts inside the 20-yard line by Drew Meyer in the 2015 season. He graduated as UW’s all-time leader in punts and finished with the third-most punt yards in Badgers history.
26 – Years since Barry Alvarez took over as UW’s football coach. Since 1990, the Badgers are 216-108-4 (.665).
25 – Passes defended by Jim Leonhard in the 2002 season, tied for the most in school history. UW hired Leonhard as its new defensive backs coach, replacing Daronte Jones.
24 – Rushing attempts for Miami (Ohio) that netted minus-3 rushing yards in a 58-0 UW win on Sept. 12, 2015. It was the first time UW held an opponent to negative rushing yards since 2007.
23 – Wins in the Big Ten over the last four seasons for UW, tying for the most victories over a four-year stretch in UW history. The Badgers also won 23 Big Ten games from 1997-2000 and 2010-13.
22 – Total touchdowns allowed by UW in 2015, tied for the second-best mark in the country and tops among teams that played at least 13 games.
21 – Turnovers forced by the UW defense in 2015, the most by the Badgers since 2011.
20 – Career pass breakups by Sojourn Shelton entering his senior season, which ties for 12th all-time in school history.
19 – Consecutive seasons UW has been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for at least one week, tied for the third-longest streak in the country behind only Ohio State (48) and Florida State (39).
18 – UW players named to an All-American team over the last eight years after linebacker Joe Schobert earned honors from first-team honors from ESPN and the Football Writers Association of America.
17 – Wins over AP Top 25 teams in the last 11 seasons. The Badgers are 17-22 in that span and will face six teams ranked in the 2015 final AP poll.
16 – Years that UW athletics was sponsored by Adidas before switching to Under Armour on July 1. UW will receive $96 million in cash and apparel from Under Armour over 10 years.
15 – Fumbles by the Badgers in 2015, tied for the sixth-fewest in UW history and the team’s best mark since 2011.
14 – Tackles for loss by returning linebacker Vince Biegel in 2015, tied for 10th in the Big Ten and the second-most on the team behind only Joe Schobert
13 – Wins in UW's last 14 games against Minnesota, including a current 12-game winning streak in college football’s longest-running rivalry.
12 – Total rushing plays of 20-plus yards for the Badgers in 2015, tied for 110th in the country. Comparatively, UW had 57 of such plays in 2014, the most in the nation.
11 – All-time overtime games played by the Badgers. Since overtime was instituted in 1996, the Badgers are 6-5 in such contests.
10 – Years since UW did not have a 1,000-yard rusher in a season before 2015. Dare Ogunbowale finished with 819 rushing yards to lead the Badgers last year.
9 – Consecutive NFL Pro Bowl selections for Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas, the longest streak for a former Badger.
8 – First downs Rutgers managed against UW in a 48-10 home win. The last time UW held a Big Ten opponent to eight first downs: at Rutgers in 2014.
7 – Times in the last nine years UW has finished a season ranked in the AP Top 25. The Badgers were ranked 21st at the end of the 2015 season following a win over USC in the Holiday Bowl.
6 – Fourth-down conversions on eight attempts for UW in 2015. The Badgers’ two failed attempts came on their final drives against Iowa and Northwestern, each in the red zone while trailing by a single score.
5 – Individual 100-yard rushing games by UW running backs in 2015, the fewest for the Badgers since 1992.
4 – Seasons when UW has had a receiver with 1,000-plus receiving yards. Alex Erickson was 22 yards short of the mark in 2015, finishing with 978 yards.
2 – Games in which UW allowed more than 21 points (35 vs. Alabama, 24 at Maryland). The Badgers gave up an average of 13.69 points per game in 2015.
1 – Win over Southern California in the Holiday Bowl, UW’s first-ever victory against the Trojans. The Badgers were previously 0-6 vs. USC.
0 – All-time victories for UW against LSU. UW lost both parts of a home-and-home series with the Tigers in 1971 and 1972, along with a 28-24 defeat to LSU in Houston two years ago.