Marc Narducci: Much-traveled Koonce returns to area

Fordham's Carlton Koonce , a Rancocas Valley grad, visits Villanova Saturday for a 6 p.m. contest. Fordham University
Fordham's Carlton Koonce , a Rancocas Valley grad, visits Villanova Saturday for a 6 p.m. contest. Fordham University
Posted: September 08, 2012

Carlton Koonce was just getting his feet wet in college football when he was forced to take an unexpected detour.

The former Rancocas Valley running back was growing accustomed to life as a college student-athlete, having earned a football scholarship to Hofstra.

Then, after his redshirt freshman season in 2009, Hofstra discontinued football, leaving Koonce and his teammates to go through recruiting once again. No hit by a defensive lineman could have blindsided Koonce more.

"It came as a shock," Koonce said earlier this week by phone. "I was brought to tears because I loved Hofstra so much."

Koonce did what any resilient youngster would have done: He regrouped and eventually landed at Fordham, which is providing his ticket back to the Philadelphia area for this weekend.

On Saturday, Fordham (1-0) will visit Villanova (0-1) in a 6 p.m. nonleague matchup between Football Championship Subdivision teams.

Koonce is coming in on a roll, having rushed for a career-high 146 yards on 19 carries in last week's opening 55-0 win over Lock Haven.

"I am very excited about playing at Villanova, and not everybody gets to play so close to home," he said. "My family and hopefully friends will be there, so you want to play well."

Playing well hasn't been a problem for the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Koonce, who is listed as a senior, but said he might attempt to play a fifth year since he didn't compete as a freshman at Hofstra.

Koonce's college career has been one of adapting. He has switched positions and is playing for his third head coach.

Koonce was a running back in his first season at Fordham, rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries in 2010.

Last season, he was switched to receiver and had 38 receptions for 308 yards and four touchdowns.

First-year Fordham coach Joe Moorhead decided to return Koonce to running back.

"If there is any silver lining, it is that I have learned to adapt to different coaches, different situations," Koonce said.

For his part, Moorhead couldn't be happier with the chance to work with Koonce.

"He is a tremendous young man, energetic, who has been elected captain by his teammates," Moorhead said. "He has picked up our running scheme and we can utilize him as a receiver and he is just a pleasure to coach."

He's not such a pleasure to play against, with his speed and shifty moves. Koonce is well suited to playing in this wide-open, no-huddle offense.

A communications major, Koonce said the entire experience, of having to start all over again, has made him stronger. He said he saw even in a difficult time the true character of former Hofstra coach Dave Cohen and his staff.

"Our coaching staff at Hofstra did a great job of putting us first. Those guys were out of a job and they have families, and they put it all aside and helped us look for new schools," he said.

Originally, when he was re-recruited, Koonce said he was leaning toward attending Eastern Kentucky, but he said his father talked him into visiting Fordham.

Things have worked out well for Koonce at Fordham, but it hasn't been easy.

"What I've been through the last few years, changing schools, working my way up to get playing time, sticking with it, the key has been not getting discouraged," he said. ". . . It is the best decision I ever made, to take that visit to Fordham and to come here."

Contact Marc Narducci

at 856-779-3225,,

or @sjnard on Twitter.

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