Well before his football playing career came to an end, Paul Volero said he always knew that he would turn to coaching the sport that he loves.
"I knew that I would struggle outside of football because some people do it because they love it -- I do it because I need it," said Volero, the defensive coordinator at Key West High. "It's part of my life and part of who I am. I knew when I was 12 or 13 years old that I would spend a lifetime in football. I knew then that I wanted to coach because I couldn't play forever."
His long journey to Key West was littered with many stops along the way.
A native of Miami, Volero was a defensive lineman at Miami Senior High, from which he graduated in 1989. From there, he went on to play in junior college at Arizona Western before transferring to Division II Glenville State College, where he played under former West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.
After his playing career came to an end after college, Volero quickly moved to the sideline.
His first coaching job came at his alma mater Miami Senior High. After about five years as defensive coordinator there, he joined the staff at Booker T. Washington, which is where he met then-head coach Jerry Hughes, who is currently the coach of the Conchs.
"That was really fun," Volero said of his time at Booker T.
From there, he landed his first college job as an assistant strength coach and defensive line coach at the University of South Florida in 2003. After a season with the Bulls, he joined back up with Rodriguez as a special teams quality control coach and academic liaison at West Virginia University. The Mountaineers won Big East championships in the final two of his three seasons there before he took over as special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Central Michigan University in 2007.
After a staff shake-up at CMU, Volero said he was looking for a place to settle down with his wife, Nersa, and three children, when he decided to head down the Keys.
"One of the main reasons I came to Key West was that if I took another college job, it would've been knowing that I would be moving in another three years or so and I didn't want to keep putting my wife and kids through that," he said. "I wanted to go somewhere where I was going to be stable for a while."
He arrived in Key West in February 2010 and joined the defensive staff with the Conchs that spring. He was the coordinator of a standout defensive unit for Key West last season, but his future with the team is in some doubt. Volero was one of several teachers let go as part of cost-cutting measures throughout Monroe County this year and he said he's unsure if he'll be back on the sideline when the football team begins practice early next month.
"I hope (to remain), but at the end of the day, we (as an assistant coach) get a $1,500 supplement," he said. "You can't live off of $1,500. I hope things work out, but if they don't, I've got to feed my family. Things will work out as they should, I'm hoping. If not, I can always do something else, but I still love being in Key West."
He said a large part of the appeal of coming to Key West was its environment and relatively low crime rate. Off the field, he said he likes fishing and exercising "and enjoying the laid back atmosphere of Key West."
"Key West is a very unique place, so compared to anything it's different than anything else," he said. "If it wasn't for air conditioning and mosquito control, this is still an outpost, so it's different for everybody. All I know is that I love it here. Are there some pluses? Yeah. Are there some negatives? Yeah. But this is where I chose to be. I turned down some jobs to be here."
Volero -- who has a saying: "Once a defensive lineman, always a defensive lineman" -- said he loves to coach, particularly on defense. Whether or not he continues to ply his trade with the Conchs, he said that coaching is still in his blood.
"There's a lot of preparation involved in coaching period, but (on defense) it's more of a react phase of football versus knowing where you're going," he said. "It makes it a little bit more difficult, which is why I like the challenge. The offensive guys have got it easy. They know where they're going, they've just got to execute."
If he isn't with Key West this fall, Volero said it was a fun ride.
"One things for sure: I've enjoyed my time in Key West and we've done some good things," he said. "We got (2010 Citizen Monroe County Player of the Year) Clinton McCoy into school on a scholarship, so he won't have to pay anything. Our job is to get these kids in school, and I hope I'm around to keep doing that."