Billy Volek never considered looking for a college outside the Fresno area after his turn as a star quarterback at Clovis West High in 1994.
No chance. None. He wanted to play for his hometown team and the coach he had followed while growing up.
“Jim Sweeney,” Volek said. “He was probably three-fourths of the decision why I stayed there, and of course (assistant) Jeff Tedford was there. He’s been one of the best coaches I’ve had and of all the years I’ve played football. I wanted to be a local guy. Going to watch Fresno State games when I was younger, watching Kevin Sweeney and Trent Dilfer play … I knew I wanted to play for the Fresno State Bulldogs.”
Volek, a three-year starter for the Bulldogs in the late ’90s who went on to a 12-year NFL career, is part of the Class of 2016 for the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies are Nov. 3 at the Fresno Convention Center.
Other inductees are former Fresno Pacific and Fresno State basketball coach and current Golden State Warriors assistant Ron Adams; seven-time PGA winner Bill Glasson; Washington High and Fresno State women’s basketball player Yvette Roberts; longtime Fresno State athletic trainer Paul Schechter; and the 1968 Hoover High baseball team.
Volek said he gives credit to Sweeney and Tedford as well as former longtime Bulldogs assistant Dan Brown for helping him reach his goals and earn the call to the Hall of Fame.
“Very excited about this,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without those coaches … and my best buddies in high school. We still get together three or four times a year and I’ve been very fortunate and lucky to be around some amazing people who helped change me into the person I am today. Extremely lucky.”
After joining Sweeney’s offensively charged system, Volek steadily transitioned from a redshirt year in 1995 to the No. 3 quarterback in 1996 (behind senior Jim Arellanes and backup Richie Donati) to the starter in his final three seasons at Fresno State.
His breakout year came in 1999 when he led the Western Athletic Conference in passing touchdowns (30), passing efficiency (152.9) and completion percentage (66.2).
Volek was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2000 and also played for the San Diego Chargers. In 2004, he enjoyed his best pro season while starting eight games for the Titans in place of the injured Steve McNair. Volek played in 10 games overall and passed for 2,486 yards and 18 TDs – including back-to-back four-touchdown, 400-yard games against Kansas City and Oakland.
In his lone postseason appearance, then with San Diego in January 2008, Volek came on for the injured Philip Rivers in the divisional round against Indianapolis and scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard sneak in the Chargers’ 28-24 road victory.
Volek took his 60.1 percent career completion percentage into retirement after the 2011 season in order to spent more time with his three now teen-age children: Morgan, 16, Carter, 14, and Benett, 13.
“What I remember most about the NFL is how amazing the athletes were,” Volek said. “I always looked at football from a different point of view when I was in the NFL. Football was my job. It’s not who I am.It was my job, and I was fortunate to play for some great coaches and I was very fortunate to have some great leadership in Steve McNair, Eddie George, LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers. Playing 12 years was neat and overwhelming and it was a great ride.” TNS
Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2016
This year’s inductees, who are set to be honored at the 58th annual Enshrinement Awards Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fresno Convention Center, with reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and a schedule of events that includes Hall President Walt Byrd’s update on the progress toward a future home for the Hall. Visit “http://fresnoahof.org_ fresnoahof.org for more information.
Ron Adams, basketball: Laton native was head coach at Fresno Pacific (where he also played) and Fresno State and served under Jerry Tarkanian in UNLV’s heyday before turning to the pros as a longtime NBA assistant, eventually joining the staff of the Golden State Warriors for their run to the 2015 NBA championship.