Their emotions have ranged from shocked to devastated to downright numb. Some are at a loss for words, except to ask why. And they really have no clue what happens from here.
No one has died, mind you. To a far lesser degree, it just seems that way. Former Gulf and USF quarterback Alton Voss has chosen to walk away from football. For the time being, it appears a career once brimming with promise has passed on. Now, its survivors — specifically, those closest to Voss — are left to sort through their feelings and try to make sense of it all.
"He says that he just can't do it no more," said Robin Burge, the de facto guardian who essentially has raised Voss and regularly is referred to by the player as his stepdad.
"He said life is not fun for him at all. I don't know if he's exaggerating. … I'll never not love him. I'll always be supportive. It's just kind of hard to right now."
A Bulls redshirt freshman, Voss publicly announced his departure over the weekend, saying he was "going to take a step back from football. I'm not talking about transferring, just taking a year of school as a regular student."
Projected to be in a struggle for the Bulls' No. 3 quarterback spot, he said he had registered for a full course load at USF.
But on Monday, Burge told the Times that Voss informed him he was planning to enroll at St. Petersburg College that afternoon and perhaps pursue some type of degree in criminal justice.
Voss didn't respond Monday to messages left on his voice mail, but apparently had hinted of walking away for at least a few weeks. Bucs coach Jay Fulmer, who watched the rangy two-way star guide Gulf to the school's lone playoff berth in 2006, said the two had spoken in Fulmer's office earlier this month.
"He just told me that basically he's just tired of football," Fulmer said.
Voss also indicated the struggle for playing time at quarterback wasn't an overriding factor in the decision, the coach said.
"He's just tired of playing, tired of practicing, just really doesn't want to do it anymore," Fulmer said. "I told him if he feels that way, then he's probably doing the right thing. If you play and don't give it all you got, you're cheating yourself and cheating the team and could end up getting hurt."
Whether Voss experiences a change of heart after sitting out an autumn is anyone's guess. He has three years of collegiate eligibility remaining and indicated Bulls coach Jim Leavitt has kept the door open for a return, perhaps at another position. That scenario seems unlikely.
Fulmer said Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky, the Bucs coach's alma mater and home to the renowned College of Justice & Safety, also could be a viable option. That is, if the passion to play returns.
"I didn't put a lot of pressure on him or anything like that," Fulmer said. "The only thing I can tell you is, I've never seen this happen to a player who has played at such a high level. … It's just hard to believe a kid that can play at such a high level is losing interest"