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Police Officer Nick Volpe ’19 Saves Man From Burning Car

Rookie officer and former Red Hawk defensive end makes rescue in the line of duty

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Photo collage of Police Officer Nick Volpe in uniform and playing football
Nick Volpe ’19, who graduated with a BA in Justice Studies and a minor in Psychology, pulled an injured motorist from a burning vehicle moments before it became engulfed in flames on November 21.

Former Red Hawk Nick Volpe ’19 came up with many clutch moments while on the football field for Montclair State. However, none of them compare to the one he had on Saturday, November 21.

Volpe, a rookie police officer in Howell Township, rescued a man from a car moments before the vehicle burst into flames after it had collided with a tree, as seen in police video footage that aired on NBC 4 New York.

“I was on patrol driving down the road a little before 8 o’clock,” Volpe told the Montclair State News Center. “I see a car off to the side of the road, and I think maybe it’s just a disabled vehicle. When I got closer I realized it was an actual motor vehicle accident. Before I could call it in, I noticed smoke and flames.”

When Volpe approached the car, he saw that the driver was still inside. “I asked him to step out of the vehicle. He was a little shaken. He hit the tree pretty hard and you couldn’t open the door. I had to pull him through the window.” Volpe remembers thinking, “Get him out of the vehicle, get him away from the vehicle,” knowing that the fire could engulf the car and even possibly cause an explosion within seconds.

Following the incident, Volpe drove the man home to his anxious family.

“As I was leaving, I explained the story to his wife, and he thanked me for saving his life.”

It was all in a day’s work for Volpe, who has handled the ensuing media attention with grace and humility; he was helping the police department deliver Thanksgiving meals before his shift began on November 25.

At Montclair State, Volpe earned a BA in Justice Studies and a minor in Psychology. That education has paid off, says Lt. John Yurgel of the Howell Township Police. “He’s a really good employee. He’s a hard worker. He takes it seriously. He’s brought his education background into field work.”

Volpe agrees. “Law enforcement has always interested me. I didn’t see myself in school for anything else.” He adds that his Psychology minor has also shaped his work: “It helps with looking at the more in-depth aspects of things.”

He also recognized Coach Enrico Giancola and the football program.

A Montclair State, Volpe played four seasons as a defensive end for the Red Hawks, from 2014-17 appearing in 32 games. He registered 78 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in addition to 12 passes defended. He capped off his career in 2017 with 43 tackles, 10.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. Volpe posted a season-high seven tackles three times and ended his career in style with a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Red Hawks’ season-finale win against William Paterson.

“I had some good memories there with the guys and the coaches. I want to give a shoutout to Coach G, a great guy who helped me tremendously, and to the Montclair State football team. I know they are struggling [with a canceled fall season due to COVID-19]. Shout out to my defense guys. I know they want to get back to the field. Good luck with the season and Go Hawks!”

This was the second dramatic rescue this month by a Montclair State alumnus in law enforcement. On November 6, New Jersey State Trooper Corey Beczo ’15 saved the life of a distraught teen who was attempting to jump from a highway overpass in Camden.

By Mary Barr Mann, with contributions from Marilyn Lehren and Montclair State Athletics.

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