Cole Kochman and Mike Woltz always figured they’d play college football.
Predicting how that dream would come to fruition? No, the two Peters Township seniors couldn’t possibly have imagined that.
Position changes, some necessitated by weight gain, others by injuries, and a near-amputation of Kochman’s left leg all provide ample context to the National Letters of Intent Kochman and Woltz signed with Youngstown State and Robert Morris, respectively, not long ago.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I started playing football,” Woltz said. “I’ve always looked up to watching guys on TV play football. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do.”
Kochman has a tattoo on his thigh, over the muscle that was once choked off from his body’s blood supply, an incident so serious that his father, Curtis, actually signed papers to authorize amputation of Cole’s leg.
“Coming back from that and getting a scholarship really means a lot,” Kochman said.
Both Kochman and Woltz grew up playing football in youth leagues together, Kochman when he was 6, Woltz a year later.
Kochman comes from a football family: Curtis Kochman played defensive back at West Virginia from 1983-87, and Cole’s uncle, Dave Johnson, has been a college assistant for nearly 30 years.
“Football has been a big part of my life,” Kochman said. “I’ve always dreamed of signing that National Letter of Intent and playing Division I college football. It feels great to complete the goal I’ve had since I was 6 years old.”
Cole Kochman, like Woltz, was originally a quarterback, at least until he broke his collarbone as a sophomore.
That was more than two years after Kochman, at a Penn State lacrosse tournament, injured his thigh and learned he was suffering from acute compartment syndrome – essentially the lack of blood flow to the muscle.
Emergency surgery was performed in the middle of the night, and it turned out amputation wasn’t necessary, though Kochman did have to learn how to walk and use his leg again.
The entire situation afforded Kochman a second lease on life and continues to serve as a motivating factor.
As a rush end in Peters Township’s 4-4 scheme, the 6-3, 210-pound Kochman had 55 tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss, helping the Indians make the playoffs the past three years – rare for a school that generally prefers its football European style.
Woltz, who once competed for playing time with Kochman, played quarterback until his junior year before he wound up being moved to fullback, linebacker and eventually tight end because he filled out.
He’s now 6-3, 215 pounds and spent the season mostly blocking for running back Mike Minjock, who ran for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“They’re two guys who will do anything you ask them to do,” Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini said. “They’ll play anywhere and do pretty much anything workout-wise.”
Last week, that meant driving from school to Evolution Sports Institute in Bridgeville to suffer through a two-plus-hour session with several other area football players.
Kochman and Woltz both pay $415 a month for membership to ESI, the workouts running four days a week and usually alternating between upper and lower body.
One example of a workout that sticks out for Woltz: bench press, four sets, weight going from heavy to light, in between sets alternating pull-ups until fail, usually around 50 or 60 total.
The workouts are so intense that the two friends will often be training alongside NFL players such as Ryan Clark, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny, Max Starks and Willie Colon.
“When it gets hard, we get on each other about it,” said Woltz, who will actually switch positions again and play outside linebacker at Robert Morris.
About 30 minutes into a workout last week, word started to circulate about Kochman and Woltz once playing quarterback. Laughter ensued. Nobody could believe it.
But spend only a few minutes with these two, and it doesn’t seem that strange, especially when you consider the work they’ve put in. Work that together helped them achieve lifelong goals of playing Division I football.
“Me and Cole have always been close,” Woltz said. “Working out with him has almost made it feel like he’s my brother; we can talk to each other about anything.”
Said Kochman, “Since we moved positions, it almost feels like we’ve gotten closer.”