George Koonce is the total package, like a modern-day Paul Robeson: he is a scholar, an artisan, as well as an exceptional athlete. A punishing linebacker and fan favorite for eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Koonce has managed to become quite the cosmopolitan man.
In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, Koonce is a successful businessman with a host of lucrative business ventures to his credit, including a flourishing contracting firm; in addition, he is the owner and proprietor of some of North Carolina's most desired properties. The Koonce Properties is the foundation for George's post-football endeavors. Grounded, Koonce knows that football is not forever and that you are potentionally one snap away from retirement.
"One thing about football, it is day-to-day, play-by-play. You could be having the greatest season in the world, you never know when that might be the play that you get hurt," Koonce said. "You have got to plan for those days that you are not playing - my mom and grandma always stressed that I save my money."
Koonce also believes in the importance of professional athletes continuing education. He stresses that the younger players should finish their degrees and get involved in internships.
Realizing that the average career span of an NFL player is three-and-a-half years, which means at the conclusion of most players' careers they are still young and are going to have to have viable alternatives.
Besides Koonce's acute business acumen, he has an astute nose for art. A patron of the arts, Koonce has a collection of prints and originals by Jonathan Green, a painter from South Carolina, who paints scenes from South Carolina's Gullah culture, a culture reflective of South Carolina's coastline. The Gullah culture is one that has direct lineage to African slaves, who settled the outer banks of South Carolina. Green's paintings, vivid in bright colors and with impressionistic theme, capture the spirit of simpler times. It is those characteristics that caught Koonce's eye.
"I used to see his pieces here and there, but then I did not have the money, but now I have two of his originals. He (Green) is from the coast of South Carolina and I am from the coast of North Carolina, and when I look at his paintings I feel like I am back home on the coast," Koonce lamented. "It makes me feel like I am in North Carolina with my family for the time being."
The soft spoken Koonce has carried a 'big ole whooping stick' out on the field, the one-time free agent signee has ran down over 600 ball-toting offenders through the span of his career. Koonce's hard hitting and ferocious style of play is only matched by his equally intense passion for North Carolina's peaceful coastline.
Reflecting on a simpler existence, Koonce is an avid outdoorsman who takes advantage of everything that his native North Carolina has to offer, which is why it is no surprise that Koonce took advantage of the break that he received since he signed with the Packers in 1992 as a free agent.
Building a strong foundation for himself, financially and culturally, Koonce is also a loving father and husband. Married to Judi, the couple has two children: a son, Trey, and a daughter, Arienna. Koonce also has become a father figure to many others through his philanthropic work with various foundations. Koonce this year founded the George Koonce Sr. foundation, named after his father, the foundation affords less fortunate children with opportunities to develop life-long skills (i.e., athletics and artistic).
A program for social development, the foundation also provides higher education opportunities for students attending Koonce's alma mater, East Carolina University, where he is a member of the board of visitors. George continues to donate time and monies to service-orientated institutions in North Carolina as well as in Wisconsin.
Capitalizing on his good fortune, proper up-bringing and heritage, George Koonce is not only a good role model to young fans, but to other professional athletes as well. A compendium of what a professional athlete should and should not be, George Koonce is an incomparable human being and represents everything the Green Bay Packers stand for.