Continuing to add what he calls "Packer people," Head Coach Mike McCarthy Tuesday named George Koonce director of player development.
Koonce, 37, returns to Green Bay after spending his first eight NFL seasons in a Packers uniform. In his new position, considered by the organization extremely important to locker room cohesiveness and overall player health, Koonce will assist players in acclimating to their roles as Green Bay Packers, both on and off the field, especially in terms of their expected contributions to their teammates, the community and team chemistry.
The former linebacker also will oversee the Packers' wide range of programs designed to meet the needs of players and their families in today's NFL. The department provides a framework of assistance within which players and their immediate family members can address the pressures created by daily life and complicated by the demands of playing professional football.
A fan favorite as an eight-year starter (1992-99) who helped the Packers return to dominance in the 1990s, Koonce had launched his pro career in humble fashion. One year before Ron Wolf and current General Manager Ted Thompson brought him to Green Bay, Koonce took part in Falcons training camp with Brett Favre after signing with the Falcons as a nondrafted free agent. Waived by Atlanta in the preseason, he spent the following spring in the World League before following Favre to Green Bay. Given an early opportunity by then defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, Koonce went on to start 102 of 112 Packers games during a memorable run that included the team's first Super Bowl championship in 29 years.
An unrestricted free agent, Koonce closed his nine-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks, who had hired Thompson as vice president of football operations. The linebacker started every game for Seattle in 2000, and finished with 720 career tackles (447 solo), nine sacks, one forced fumble, five fumble recoveries and five interceptions - two of which he returned for touchdowns - in 128 NFL games (118 starts).
Following his retirement, Koonce spent two years in private business before returning to his alma mater, East Carolina, in pursuit of his master's degree in sports management. He also spent most of two academic years (2004-06) as East Carolina's special assistant to the athletic director, a role in which he was in charge of program development.
Koonce is the team's fourth director of player development. He replaces Turner Gill, who became head coach at the University of Buffalo Dec. 16. Edgar Bennett (2001-04) and Gill Byrd (1999-2000) previously headed up the department.