Voitus ready to wreck it for Penguins

POLAND — Mike Voitus said he made the decision to go to Youngstown State University to play football for a couple reasons, but one of the biggest was he liked first-year YSU coach Doug Phillips.

“His approach to the game is similar to mine,” Voitus said of Phillips.

The Penguins coach must like hard-hitting.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Voitus was a wrecking ball of a defensive end for the Poland Bulldogs the last few years, and he hopes to have a similar career with YSU.

Voitus was the Northeast-8 Conference Defensive Player of the Year this past season, when he had 47 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss, five sacks and one interception. He was special mention All-Ohio and a key reason the Bulldogs finished 11-3 and reached the Division IV state semifinal.

Voitus played a little outside linebacker at times, but he prefers being on the line and battling in the trenches.


“There’s constant contact,” he said. “I get to hit somebody every single play. That’s what I enjoy the most.”

The bruising style didn’t emerge from just natural size and skill. Voitus worked for it.

Poland coach Ryan Williams lauded the two-year letterman for his relentless approach to all aspects of life. Williams said his dedication is one of the reasons he expects Voitus to be a “great fit” at YSU and why he should adapt well to the college level.

“Work ethic, period,” said Williams of what sets Voitus apart from others. “He’s got a tremendous motor all the time. On the field, off the field, his work ethic is tremendous.”

Voitus’ ability wasn’t the only factor that made him one of the area’s elite defenders.

Voitus was a team leader who showed others how to go about their business with his work ethic and by setting others straight when they were slacking or out of line. His father, Ken, and brother, Jordan, were on the coaching staff, and at times, it seemed like Mike was as well.

“Very vocal,” said Williams in describing Voitus’ leadership. “His dad coaches in our program. His brother coaches in our program. He’s an on-field coach-leader type kid.

“… He’s a blue-collar guy. He’s a lunch pail guy — shows up and is always working. He appreciates the challenge, and he likes to compete.”

Voitus originally committed to Slippery Rock University, but he changed his mind after meeting Phillips.

The new coach, a Mahoning Valley native and former assistant with the Cincinnati Bearcats and Iowa State Cyclones, emitted an honest and straight-forward approach that resonated with Voitus.

“That’s a big part of it,” said Voitus of picking YSU, adding that being close to home would allow family and friends to watch him play.

Voitus is anxious to join the Penguins.

He said he has been able to work out with his brother, who has equipment at his house down the street, during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He’s curious to see the type of athletes he’ll be competing with, and against, at the FCS level.

“Not only the college level, but it being Division I-AA, it’s going to bring much bigger guys, and the speed of the game is going to be different,” Voitus said. “I’m anxious to see what it’s going to be like. I’m ready to see how they work and get my own body bigger, stronger and faster.”

Voitus, an honor roll student, expects to study sports science and psychology at YSU.


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