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Former Green Bay Packers linebacker George Koonce earned his doctorate from Marquette University and now helps former players transition out of the NFL. (PHOTO: Marquette University)

Milwaukee Talks: Former Packers linebacker George Koonce

(page 2) With all that is coming to light about the physical and mental issues NFL players suffer when they retire, do you think the younger guys coming in are going to listen more?

George Koonce: I think so. I think so. With the concussions and everything, it is surely a hot button topic. The guys are smart. They're seeing what's going on. For the most part a lot of guys do think about life after football. I'll have a book coming out, probably in January 2014, "Is There Life After Football," and I'm collaborating with two professors over at Marquette University and it's going be sort of a blueprint to help guys. Not only in the professional ranks, but on the college level, as well. How to transition into a successful career.

It's tougher now but it can be easier because there are a lot of resources available. You have the continuing education piece where the NFL will pay for guys to go back to their respective schools to graduate. There are a lot of financial educational courses, people to work with you with your life skills. But it's up to the individual. Do they want to prepare themselves for the after-life?

OMC: Finally, what does it mean for you to get involved with the Urban Scholars Program? It seems like it's something you didn't have to do.

GK: That's a great question. I didn't really realize until I was in the National Football League, up in Green Bay, and I asked a good friend of mine about our days at East Carolina and football scholarships and I was naïve. I didn't know all that worked.

I had some individuals back at East Carolina University in the Pirate Club, alums and friends of the university were giving money back to the university to fund scholarships and I was very fortunate to get one of those.

So I was very, very thankful to get a football scholarship to showcase my talent and then go on and play in the National Football League and play for a franchise like the Green Bay Packers. But at that time, that was a seed that was planted that I wanted to give back.

What I do now is opening doors and raising money to give to smart, deserving kids that belong at Marquette University but maybe don't have the financial means to be there.

That's my way of paying it forward of me receiving a scholarship coming out of high school. I'm able to go out there and raise money to give some young people from some tough backgrounds an opportunity to get a first rate education at Marquette University. That kind of got the whole ball rolling for me and I'm really enjoying what I'm doing.

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