Michael Rezin/Ram Archives Carlton Koonce, also known as C.J., provided the Rams with 83 yards on 23 carries in Saturday’s win over Villanova.
Carlton Koonce emerged as one of the premier running backs in the FCS last season, finishing fourth in rushing yards per game with 145.1. He had two 200-yard games (250 against Columbia and 232 against Colgate). In 2011, as a sophomore, he was used primarily as a slot receiver and led the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns. A communication major, he came to Fordham from Hofstra when the school cut its football program after Koonce’s freshman year.
The Fordham Ram: What was your reaction when you heard Hofstra was cutting its football program?
Carlton Koonce: It was definitely a shock. I didn’t see it coming. Nobody in my class saw it coming, but I guess we should have seen it coming. It was funny how it went down. After the season, they wouldn’t let us in the locker room and they kept telling us they were doing renovations or cleaning the carpets or something. Then, it was just a regular day — we had lifting in the morning. They called us in and we didn’t really know what to think. The guy went up there and started talking and he told us that every season, the board of trustees reviews the program. And then he said, “We decided to discontinue the program.” We were like, “What?” Because this is Hofstra, we put out good players in the NFL. But that’s what they decided to do. My heart just dropped. Me being a true freshman, that’s where I wanted to be. That’s where I felt most comfortable. But credit to the [Hofstra] coaching staff. Those guys put us before themselves. They made sure to get us in the best schools possible.
TFR: And then why did you choose to come to Fordham?
CK: Education. Great tradition. Fordham is a very highly touted and very prestigious school when it comes to academics. And the Patriot League is a decent conference. In some peoples’ eyes maybe it’s not as deep as the CAA [where Hofstra played], but the way I saw it, I could come here for free, play good football and get a great education on top of that, which was one of the more important things. Plus, with me being from south Jersey, that only added to it. My dad and my mother, we all talked it over because I was thinking of going to Eastern Kentucky as well, and I saw myself fitting in there well. But when it came down to it, setting myself up for years down the road, I decided to come here to Fordham and it worked out pretty well.
TFR: When they had you playing receiver as a sophomore, did you start to regret your decision at all?
CK: Not a whole lot. I mean, I kind of did. But at the end of the day, it was better for the team. I’m a team player. At the same time, I knew my heart was at running back, but I wasn’t going to say anything. I kept it to myself and tried to contribute to the team as best as I possibly could.
TFR: And then last year, having the year that you did, did you feel vindicated at all?
CK: I would be lying if I said I didn’t. I’ll always go out there and try to prove people wrong. Critics always try to find something wrong with your game, and it’s just my job to go out there and produce the best way I know how to. By doing that, I definitely want to prove the naysayers wrong. They say, “You’re too little,” or, “You’re not fast enough.” I’ve heard it all. I try to go out there each and every day, keep that in the back of my mind and keep that chip on my shoulder. Last year was definitely a testament to that. I mean, I couldn’t have done it without help, because it’s not all me out there. With the great O-line and great coaching that we’ve got, I was able to showcase my talents and my abilities, which I was very thankful for.
TFR: What are your plans for after graduation?
CK: I’m going to see how the football route works out; it’s always been a dream of mine. If not, I’ll do something in the business world. I’ll always have a backup plan. Fortunately, going back to my decision to come to Fordham, I’ve met outstanding, wonderful people, guys in relationship to the football team and alumni, so I’m not too worried about that. But I’m still going to try the football route.
Koonce was fourth in the FCS in yards per game in 2012.