CINCINNATI – In a huge, tool-filled North Dakota storage garage designed for semi-tractors and payloaders,watched April’s NFL draft on a projection screen, waiting to see if all his hard work had paid off.
Finally, the phone rang. With the 136th selection, theselected the 6-foot-6 tackle out of North Dakota State, making him the Bengals’ only draft pick on the offensive side of the ball. Nearly 12,500 square feet of storage space was filled with cheers as his name was projected on the giant display.
Video of the reaction was shared on social media, which created a positive first impression with at least one of Volson’s future teammates on the offensive line.
“That’s a good look for an O-lineman to come in,” Bengals left tacklesaid of seeing a post of Volson’s reaction. “I haven’t met him yet, but I have a good idea of the type of person he’s going to be.”
In Volson, the Bengals will get someone who was digging ditches for his father’s excavation business as a child, played varsity football in eighth grade, bided his time to become a starter at NDSU and now has an outside shot at becoming the final piece to Cincinnati's reworked offensive line.
“You love his intangibles,” Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack said the night after Volson was drafted. “He’s a worker – that’s how he was raised, (which is) what you’re looking for.”
Volson had many opportunities to work early in his career. After years of working as a contractor, his father Ralph started his own business in 1994. Ralph explained that Cordell and Tanner, his older brother, tagged along and started helping out. Some jobs went from sundown until sunrise.
“You just tell them to go get in a skid steer (a small vehicle used for digging) And they can do it — and did a lot better than you think,” Ralph said of Cordell and Tanner, who went undrafted in 2019 and had brief stints with theand .
Cordell got early experience playing varsity football for his high school when he made his debut for the 9-man football team in eight grade at Drake-Anamoose High School, located near Volson’s hometown of Balfour,North Dakota.
An eighth-grader playing for the high school varsity isn’t uncommon, former coach Chris Arnold said. And when it came to find a center, he looked down his bench and picked “the biggest one.”
“I said, ‘You’re in,’” Arnold said. “And he looked at me like, ‘Holy s— coach, I’m not ready.’ I said, ‘Get ready, we’re going.’”
Volson needed to gain weight and be redshirted when he arrived at North Dakota State State in the summer 2016. Volson set a goal of gaining one to two pounds per week. Jim Kramer, NDSU strength coaches, stated that Volson gained around 22 pounds by end of fall.
“The kid’s got an amazing self-discipline, an amazing drive, too, to succeed,” Kramer said. “He will work at something until it’s down automatic and a reaction.”
By the 2021 season, Volson was the starting left tackle on NDSU’s FCS championship team. Volson's position flexibility was demonstrated in the semifinal victory over James Madison. A knee injury forced Volson to be moved from guard to tackle by the Bison on the first play of the game.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better leader and a more composed football player in that moment, where all of a sudden you’re asking a fifth, sixth-year guy to say, ‘Hey, you gotta move down to guard for whatever’s best for the football team,’” head coach Matt Entz said. “And with Cordell, he never blinked.”
Volson is also expected to be used as a guard by the Bengals. He got his first taste of playing for the defending AFC champions during the team’s one-day rookie minicamp.
Volson joins a Cincinnati team that revamped one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines from a year ago. This offseason, the Bengals signed three free agents – centerRight guard , and right tackle La’el Collins – to improve a unit that ranked 30th in pass block win rate last season and surrendered 19 sacks in a postseason run that ended in a Super Bowl loss.
This leaves the starting leftguard position vacant., last year’s second-round pick, is projected to be among Volson’s chief competitors for that spot. Carman began training camp as a third-stringer and completed the year as an assistant after Carman had finished 2021's offseason exercises.
It seems that the left guard spot is still open. This makes this one of the most exciting offseason battles. Volson told the Bengals that he was ready for work when Volson was drafted.
During Tuesday’s practice session open to the media, Carman worked with the first-team offense while Volson was with the second-string unit. Volson must have a very strong camp in order to prove he is capable of being a Week 1 starter.
“I’m a physical player that prides myself on being the hardest worker in the room,” Volson said in a conference call with local reporters following his selection. “I’m just going to come in and work hard, and continue to play to and through the echo of the whistle.”
Kramer, the NDSU strength coach, said there should be zero concern about Volson putting in the work now that he’s in the NFL.
“You’re going to be more worried about him going around Cincinnati doing lawn care in the summer or doing landscaping work or something like that,” Kramer said. “That’s what you’re going to have to be concerned [about] with him – that the kid doesn’t overdo it, not that he’s going to get out of his routine.”