Chowan inducts Super Bowl champ

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 17, 2003

MURFREESBORO – George Koonce is a handsome man, but his face wasn’t the focus of what appeared to be a horde of cameras here Saturday night.

Shortly after Koonce – an All-American linebacker at Chowan College in 1988 – was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, it was his Super Bowl ring, earned in 1996 while a starter with the Green Bay Packers, which became the focus of attention. The crowd leaned in for a look at a world championship ring. Koonce even went as far as to slip it off his finger and allowed the curious onlookers to hold a piece of NFL history. Even after he put the ring back on, Koonce’s finger became the subject of a &uot;paparazzi&uot; like photo shoot.

Koonce, ever so graceful, took it all in stride.

&uot;Chowan College was my beginning and the chance to play professional football was my end,&uot; said Koonce. &uot;Chowan was such a great, great place to grow and mature, both as a student and as a man. We, and when I say we I mean the entire athletic program here at Chowan, were all part of a tight-knit group.&uot;

He continued, &uot;Chowan has a great athletic program and great athletic spirit among the students. I learned so much while I was here, things that have carried me off the field as well.&uot;

Koonce’s agent, Ralph Vitalo, who inducted his client into the Hall of Fame, praised former Chowan coach Jim Garrison for molding and developing Koonce’s character.

&uot;Over the years, George has played under 27 coaches, from high school, through college, and on to the pros,&uot; noted Vitalo. &uot;But of all those coaches, the only two that George ever talks about are Jim Garrison and (former Green Bay head coach) Mike Holmgren.&uot;

During his sophomore season at Chowan, Koonce recorded 131 tackles from his linebacker spot en route to being named as the Coastal Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He went on to a starter’s role at East Carolina University and then joined the Packers in 1992.

Koonce, a Vanceboro native who now resides in Greenville, is a member of the ECU Board of Trustees and the founder of the George Koonce Sr. Foundation (named for his father), an organization that helps the less fortunate gain opportunities through education.

Three others joined Koonce in the 19th annual Hall of Fame class on Saturday night in the Chowan College cafeteria.

John Wallace Daniel was Chowan’s first football coach from 1933-35. The Weldon native also coached baseball and women’s basketball at the college.

He came to Chowan after a banner football career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, he was a starting halfback in both his junior and senior seasons, once returning a kick-off 98 yards for a touchdown, a school record that stood for over 30 years before being broken by the legendary Charlie &uot;Choo-Choo&uot; Justice.

&uot;I remember my dad telling me of how much he loved coaching here at Chowan,&uot; said son, John W. Daniel Jr. who accepted the plaque and Hall of Fame ring for his father who passed away in 1968. &uot;If the money had been better, dad would probably stayed here forever because that’s how much he loved to coach.&uot;

Daniel closed by saying, &uot;Dad, you’re finally getting the credit due you here tonight. You now have something that nobody can ever take away, not even ‘Choo-Choo’ Justice.&uot;

Known as a quiet leader during his playing days (1961-63) at Chowan, Harry W. Webster took his place among the school’s elite athletes on Saturday night when his name was enshrined into the Sports Hall of Fame.

Hailed as a superb student-athlete, Webster went on to earn a degree in business accounting, an education that eventually opened the door for him to work as Plant Manager with Abbott Laboratories.

The Rocky Mount native is a member of the Braves Club Foundation and the Chowan College Alumni Association.

&uot;I enjoyed the time I spent here at Chowan and it’s always nice to come home again,&uot; said Webster. &uot;Chowan forever holds a special place in my heart. It was here that I met my wife. It was here that I met such outstanding men such as Jim Garrison and Bruce Whitaker.&uot;

The final inductee of the night was Lamar Clark, a two-sport star (football and track) at Chowan from 1962-64. The Lexington (NC) native went on to play football at Elon and then launched a successful business career, one that now sees him serve as Director of Sales for PGT, a building products supply company.

&uot;Outside my wife and my God, the best thing that ever happened to me was attending Chowan College and playing for coach Garrison,&uot; stated Clark. &uot;Coach believed in me and instilled in me a desire to give 100 percent, and a little bit more, in everything you do in life. Chowan and coach Garrison made me the person I am today.&uot;

&uot;Let me tell you something special about Lamar Clark,&uot; said Garrison. &uot;In his sophomore year at Chowan, we had three young men named as football All-Americans. Lamar wasn’t one of the three, but with all that talent, do you know which player was chosen as the team’s MVP that season – Lamar Clark. He was a winner then and he remains as a winner now.&uot;

Hall of Fame rings were presented to each new inductee. Those rings were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Warren G. Sexton Sr. (to Koonce and Webster), Chowan Director of Athletics Debbie Warren (to Daniel) and Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thurston (to Clark) in memory of the late Billy Boswell, a veteran member of the Hall of Fame selection committee.