Will Rottman was never really nervous on the volleyball court for the Santa Barbara High boys team.
It was more like the opposition had reason to be anxious over the past four seasons, going up against one of the best prep talents in the country.
But Rottman admitted recently that he is a bundle of nerves, as the next chapter of his life unfolds. As a phenomenal student with a grade point average north of 4.5, and a swing from the outside edge of a volleyball court that would strike fear into anyone on the receiving end, it’s no wonder why Stanford — one of the nation’s elite programs — came calling with a scholarship offer.
It’s also the reason Rottman has butterflies in his tummy for the first time in a long time.
“I’m nervous, to be honest with you, but I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m excited to meet some new people and also play some volleyball. I’m really excited to play at a higher level.”
Rottman, who is known as much for being humble as he is for his powerful swing, says the nerves don’t come from his ability to play at the highest level of college volleyball.
Far from it.
He’s got all the confidence in the world when it comes to competing for the Cardinal. His anxiety, however much it is, comes from what a lot of high-school students deal with: leaving home.
“I’ve kind of gained more of an appreciation for home this summer knowing that I’m leaving,” Rottman admitted, “but I’m really excited to play some good volleyball and meet some new people and get a great education.”
He is well aware of the demands that come with being a student-athlete at Stanford.
“I think Stanford University kind of prides itself on no special treatment for athletes, and rightfully so,” Rottman said. “You have kids up there doing some amazing things and, honestly, much more important than sports.
“I’m a full-sports guy, so that’s hard for me to say. I have the resources for help if I need it. I achieved well, academically, in high school, and I’ll work hard at Stanford.
“If I have to work a little harder, I’ll work a little harder. … The goal is to take academics as seriously as volleyball, so hopefully I can achieve my goals in both.”
Along with being a First-Team All-Channel League player, a league MVP, and whatever other honor one would rightfully want to bestow upon the 6-foot-5 kill machine at the net, Rottman doesn’t feel like he is even close to seeing the top of the mountain in his sport.
“I’ve always aimed to be humble, for sure, but my philosophy is I was a great high-school player, and it’s great to be honored for that, but I really haven’t accomplished anything yet,” he said.
“I always want to get better and better. I’m just super thankful for all the help I’ve had along the way and all the help I continue to get. I feel there’s no reason to boast about it or anything like that. I have the confidence to go up there and do what they want me to do, but that’s no reason to not be humble.”
One of those who’s been a guiding light for Rottman on and off the volleyball court has been his father, Dave, who was a two-time All-American volleyball player at UCSB. Dave Rottman was a member of the 1988 Gaucho team that lost, 3-2, in the national championship match to USC.
“I’m so appreciative of my dad and my mom (Christina), and what my whole family has done for me,” he said.
It’s why Will Rottman — who has been compared to other Santa Barbara greats such as Karch Kiraly, Brook Billings and Todd Rogers, just to name a few — says wherever he is with his volleyball career, this piece of paradise will always be home.
“I think I’ll always play for Santa Barbara,” Rottman said. “I love Santa Barbara. I’m always playing for Santa Barbara. It feels great to be mentioned in the same sentence as guys like Brook Billings, Karch Kiraly and Todd Rodgers.
“There are some great players who have come from Santa Barbara, and to be mentioned in the same likes as them is super humbling and something I’ve always wanted. It also makes me a little hungrier to achieve what they did at the next level.”
As for his new volleyball assignment at Stanford, Rottman said he’s reached out to a number of teammates, and even bumped into a few who played beach volleyball this summer.
He is confident the Cardinal has the pieces in place to make a run at a national title this upcoming season, especially since there were some pretty significant departures from teams around the country last season.
“I’ve talked to a few of the upper classmen, and they’re all in on that,” Rottman said. “They feel like we can make a good go at it, especially after NCAA men’s volleyball lost some really dominant guys.
“Long Beach graduated three seniors, Hawaii graduated two of there dominant seniors. It’s all across the board. There’s a big opening for teams, and we’re young and hungry and we’re returning a lot of guys. I think we have a good crack at it, for sure.”
One thing is for sure, the addition of Will Rottman just gave Stanford that much better of a chance to win it all this season, and in seasons to come.