Joe Davidson

The ‘moose’ is loose: Jesuit star Cade Brownholtz continues family football legacy

Wearing a brown hat to shield him from the rain, North Optimist All-Star coach John Volek addresses his team, including grandson Cade Brownholtz, back in red helmet, during a practice Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Sacramento State.
Wearing a brown hat to shield him from the rain, North Optimist All-Star coach John Volek addresses his team, including grandson Cade Brownholtz, back in red helmet, during a practice Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Sacramento State. Scott Brownholtz

The older brothers grew up as quarterbacks, comfortable with the forward pass like their uncles.

Then the third sibling came roaring along like a tornado and changed things up.

Cade Brownholtz emerged as a quarterback chaser, a run stopper, a defensive tyrant.

Brownholtz will pursue ball carriers one final time wearing a Jesuit High School helmet on Saturday afternoon in the 61st Optimist All-Star Football Classic at Sacramento State.

Brothers Calvin and Cole, both a Bee All-Metro quarterback leader at Jesuit in their day, have soaked in family time over the holidays, including North practice visits. Cole is playing quarterback on scholarship at Incarnate Word in San Antonio and has since resumed classes. Calvin is a signal caller on scholarship at University of Texas-El Paso, and he returns to school next week.

He will helping coach the North squad on Saturday, where he will also check out kid brother, who looks like big bro as a 6-foot-3 and 230-pound refrigerator-clearing, bench-pressing force of nature.

“And he’s still growing,” said Scott Brownholtz, father of the three sons and an assistant coach for the North team on Saturday. “Cade’s always been the bigger moose of the three boys.”

The moose has been loose for years. Brownholtz was a youth football star and then became a two-time first-team Bee All-Metro defensive end who also played a lot of outside linebacker. He is fast, instinctive, versatile and tough.

Brownholtz knows this sport, having studied it since about the time he could crawl, much like his brothers. With one twist.

“Growing up, I found fun in hitting people in football,” Brownholtz said. “Quarterback was never my calling like it was for my brothers. I felt like I needed to be a defensive player, to make tackles.”

He added, “It’s definitely been a great experience to be in this family – 24/7, I’m around football, and it’s awesome. It’s something I’m passionate about.”

Parents Scott and Heather have seen it all up close since the start, from toppled furniture from brotherly scrums to academic and gridiron success. So has John Volek, father of Heather and the North Optimist head coach.

“Since Cade was 3 years old, helping me decorate the Christmas tree, he’s known football,” Volek said. “He’d see the horse shoe on the Colts helmets on TV and the horn on the Rams helmet and knew the teams. He’s always loved this sport, just like his brothers.”

For years, the Brownholtz brothers have helped spot each other in a weight room that was constructed in a room next to the family home. Testosterone raged, gallons of Gatorade consumed, and the challenge was on, right on into the dining room.

Imagine the family scrum at the dinner table these days. Who wins the tussle for that last pork chop, that last slab of beef, the last heaping helping of mashed potatoes? The Brownholtz passers or the Brownholtz bruiser?

“Cole and Calvin need to watch out for Cade now because he muscles in for most of the meat now,” Volek said.

At big family gatherings, the talk is often on first downs and goal-line stops, of team play, leadership and life goals. This is a family of football, one in which athletics and competition have reaped rewards.

Volek can relate to trench play, and he has always appreciated quarterback excellence. Volek played center at Placer High, Sierra College and at Riverside, and his offenses while head coach at Fresno City College and later at Sacramento State were among the nation’s most creative and prolific.

Volek’s son, Joe, was an All-American quarterback when they were together at Fresno City in 1989. Joe later played at Montana State and became a program-turning head coach at El Dorado High. He is the offensive coordinator for the North Optimist.

Volek’s other son, Billy, was a star quarterback at Fresno State who logged nine NFL seasons. He lives in San Diego, where he raises a family and coaches youth football.

“The talent all comes from their mother, Vicki,” coach Volek said with a laugh. “I’m a proud dad and grandfather.”

Brownholtz is the lone defender of the family. He had 19 tackles for loss and four sacks as a Jesuit senior.

Part of his Thursday happenings on campus was visiting with coaches from Nevada and Oregon State. He will go on a recruiting trip to Oregon State next week, thankful for any chance he has to continue his playing career.

“I’m excited,” Brownholtz said. “I’ve only gotten better as a player. I’m looking forward to my future. I really feel like I’ve only scratched my potential.”

Scott can relate to the frustrations of the uncertainty of college ball. His prep days were in San Diego, where he had no scholarship offers as a senior.

He landed at Fresno City to play for Volek in 1990 and ‘91 and blossomed into a star center.

“I was one of those guys who was overlooked, who was still growing,” Scott said. “The only reason I became an All-American at Fresno City was because of John Volek. He developed me. He packaged me, sold me to coaches as a player who could help, and then I got 15 to 20 offers.”

Scott landed at Georgia, where he became a team captain. This was after he landed the girl of his dreams. She was Heather Volek then, an impact basketball player in her prep days at Clovis West for a 33-2 team. She is now the first-year basketball coach at St. Francis High in Sacramento, one of the storied programs in Northern California.

“I didn’t even know they were dating until halfway through the season when he played for me,” Volek said. “Then I told him he was a brave man!”

Said Scott Brownholtz, “He said I had to have stones to ask his daughter out, but if I could handle her, he had my blessing because she’s very independent!”

Continuing the family theme, St. Francis hosts rival Christian Brothers on Saturday night in the annual Holy Court basketball game. Team Brownholtz/Volek will be in attendance.

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavidson@sacbee.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.
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