Running Back Koonce Has Season for the Record Books


From last season’s one-win team to this year’s winning record, Fordham has seen a phenomenal and dramatic turnaround of its football program. The team’s recent success is due to many of its players and coaches, but perhaps none more than running back Carlton Koonce, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’13. In the last game of the 2012 season, Koonce piled up 232 rushing yards on 33 carries, and in the process shattered the school’s nine-year-old single-season rushing record. Koonce’s 1,596 yards now stand as the most in school history.

Running back Koonce, FCRH ’13, broke the school rushing record by piling up 1,596 yards this season. (Emily Sawicki/The Observer)

Koonce’s transformation from last year to this one is at least as dramatic as that of the team. After spending his junior year as wide receiver, Koonce only garnered 11 carries in 2011, good for 77 yards. With a new coaching staff in place, he was put back on to the offensive backfield and became the centerpiece of a team with a deadly rushing attack.

“I guess the coach decided to make that call. He knew my prior history, that I was a running back prior to being a wide receiver, and that’s my more natural position. That’s what I was recruited as coming out of high school. It was a switch I was very grateful for. I didn’t request it, but I just try to go out and do my best no matter what.”

When asked who, if anyone, was the professional-level inspiration behind his historic season, Koonce named New Orleans Saints running back Darren Spoles, noting the similarities in their smaller, quicker games. Most of all, Koonce pointed out Spoles’ role as a third-down back, saying he hoped to be the player that the coaches trust in blitzing situations, too.

A consummate teammate, Koonce was not the least bit hesitant to share the credit for his fantastic year. While piling up over 140 yards per game, the All-Patriot League running back never lost sight of the big men who paved the way.

“Words can’t really describe it. It’s a group effort. That record’s really more ours than it is mine. Our o-line [offensive line] is one of the best o-lines I’ve run behind all my life. They did a fantastic job. The coaching staff, putting us in position for long runs like that, just paying attention to detail, you know, it was great. It’s a great feeling. From a personal standpoint, this is something that I’ve worked for since I was little. I wanted to play college football and try to pursue it to the next level. Having the record is something that means a great deal to me. It just goes to show that hard work does pay off. From where I came from to where I’m at now, from playing wide receiver, being behind on the depth chart…it means a great deal to me, and it’s something for me to work on. I’m never satisfied. I came four yards short of 1,600, and so I’m really hoping we can work together and improve on it next year.”

When asked about the team’s thrilling season, Koonce admitted he was excited to be part of a team that was rewarded for their hard work, but was still focused on improving. “This feels amazing, you know, it’s fantastic. We had a great team and great leadership on the team, and with the transition, the new coaching change and everything like that, going from a 1-10 season to a 6-5 season that potentially could’ve been way better than 6-5, it just speaks volumes. The hard work that we put in day in and day out, getting up in the morning, conditioning, grinding…you know, it’s things like that. We come to work every day, and this is how we’re paid. This is our reward. We’re hoping to build on it and have a better season next season.”

Koonce, though a senior, has not yet seen the end of his days as a Ram. His first year of college was spent at Hofstra University in 2009, and thus will be eligible to return for a fifth year. Though the team will see quarterback Ryan Higgins, FCRH ’13, and kicker Patrick Murray, FCRH ’13, leave come spring, they still retain some major pieces. All-Patriot League players Koonce, wide receiver Brian Wetzel, FCRH ’15, and tight end Dan Light, FCRH ’15, will be back as key players in a very effective offense. Make no mistake about it either: Koonce has set his expectations high.

“Our expectations are nothing less than an undefeated season going in to the playoffs. I know it’s a tall task, but we’re up to the challenge. We all know what the coaches expect of us and we expect of ourselves, and that we have to try and be perfect. We understand that if we pay attention to detail and do the little things right, then that can be accomplished. We have a great coaching staff. Every game that we lost we’d been in, so you know they’re doing their jobs; we just have to do ours. We’re taking the offseason one day at a time.”