Receiving position

Although he had been a quarterback since sixth grade, Caleb Voelker wasn’t too disappointed when Columbus East football coach Bob Gaddis approached him about a position switch in the spring.

So Voelker went to work as a wide receiver. Now, with two games left in the regular season, the junior is the second-leading receiver for a team that is 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 5A.

“It was a difficult transition at first,” Voelker said. “I had to learn how to run routes and stuff. I knew the basic concepts from being a quarterback, and I worked hard watching a lot of film. Coach Gaddis gets us prepared pretty well.”

Voelker spent last season as the backup quarterback to K.J. McCarter. With McCarter returning for his senior season, Voelker figured McCarter would be the starter again, but McCarter has not played yet this year because of a lingering hamstring injury.

That left the door open for Voelker to return to quarterback. But when sophomore Josh Major won the job in the preseason, Voelker went back to receiver.

“In the offseason, we thought K.J. was going to be quarterback, so I was working a lot at wide receiver,” Voelker said. “My goal was just to get on the field this year and contribute to the team. So when Josh was named the starter, I just did whatever I could to get on the field.”

“I think he’s athletic enough to play several places,” Gaddis said. “He was a guy we talked about last spring that we thought needed to be on the field someplace. We knew he’d either be a receiver or defensive back, and he’s settled in nicely at receiver. He has some offensive skills, so I think it’s been a good transition.”

Through seven games, Voelker ranks second on the team with 11 catches for 166 yards and has one touchdown reception.

“In our offense, it’s obvious we’re not throwing it a whole bunch, but we’re playing with a high-percentage passing game,” Gaddis said. “He does a nice job catching it. More importantly, we’ve been talking with our wide receivers about becoming better blockers, and I think he’s bought into that.

“In high school football, especially in our program and the position we are now, just finding a way on the field should be what all of our kids want to do,” he said. “We’ve moved all kinds of kids around over the years, and that’s where he fit for us.”

In the offseason, Voelker worked out with his brother J.T., who was the Olympians’ top receiver in 2012 and on the Class 4A state championship team in 2013 and now plays at Marian University.

“We did a lot of drills over the summer when my coach said I’d have an opportunity to play wide receiver,” Caleb Voelker said. “I learned a lot of things from him.”

At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Caleb Voelker is bigger than his brother, but he isn’t as fast.

“I feel like I can out-power people,” Voelker said. “Since I’m a lot bigger than the corners I go against, I can go up and get the ball.”

Still the backup quarterback, Caleb Voelker gets about 10 to 15 snaps a week at quarterback during practices. He has seen mop-up duty at that position in several games this season and has rushed 15 times for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Voelker hopes to play college football and has visited Purdue and Ball State. He realizes if he does play in college, it will likely be as a wide receiver and not quarterback.

“There’s a lot less pressure,” Caleb Voelker said. “You can just go out and play and compete.”

Catching Fire

Name: Caleb Voelker

School: Columbus East

Year: Junior

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 190

Position: Wide receiver

Key stats: 11 receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown; 15 carries for 119 yards and one touchdown

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5628.