By Emily Orthwein
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
TCU’s football team is known for recruiting some of the best high school players in the country.
College recruiters hope to scout every single player in the recruiting process, making sure to think of every possibility for a university’s roster. Sometimes, though, some players can be missed at first.
Jon Koontz, a senior defensive end from Aledo, Texas, is one who was overlooked at first, but has become a rare find for TCU’s football program.
He knew he loved football, but didn’t think he would play at the college level. After talking to Cody Moore, a previous defensive tackle at TCU from 2004 to 2007, he changed his mind.
“It hadn’t even crossed my mind,” Koontz said. “Cody told me I should walk on to TCU’s football team, so then I gave my tapes to Dick Bumpas, TCU’s defensive line coach. My parents gave me the go ahead and I didn’t look back.”
Bumpas looked at Koontz’s tapes and told him to try out and over the course of almost five seasons together, an unbreakable bond has formed between Coach Bumpas and Koontz.
“Jon is a bright young man who has a joy of playing football,” Bumpas said. “He’s a self-made football player. He came here undersized, but he has turned himself into a Big 12 player.”
He still remembers that first time he ran onto the field to fill in for Stansly Maponga, a previous TCU defensive end who now plays for the Atlanta Falcons.
Koontz said he wanted to step in for Maponga like no one would notice a difference in the game.
“I remember the first time I was running onto the field and how nervous I was,” Koontz said. “ I still get that nervous before every game, but after the first few plays it is just like playing football again.”
Koontz said despite being a walk-on, the scholarship players treated him the same and held him to a similar standard.
“I honestly didn’t feel like a walk-on a lot of the times,” said Koontz. “Words of encouragement from older guys on the team like Ross Forrest, who was a walk on defensive end himself, helped me.”
Now he is one of those scholarship players, as he worked hard to earn that status on the team. He is one of the team captains and the only senior on the defensive line.
Koontz said the encouragement he received when he was just starting out helped him with his new role of being a leader on the team. He is a leader on the field, but also represents the well-rounded student and player that TCU produces.
Koontz is currently attending graduate school in the evenings and working for a small accounting firm on his days off, all while still playing for a Division 1 team. He has attained an entrepreneurial management degree from TCU’s Neeley School of Business, which ranks 6th in the nation by Bloomberg Businessweek.
Having a well-rounded team on and off the field is head coach Gary Patterson’s main goal of TCU’s program, Koontz said. He went on to add that Patterson teaches his players through his coaching techniques and respect.
“Coach Patterson worries a lot about the person you’re going to be after football,” said Koontz. “As a player, our coaches are very detail oriented and having attention to detail is something we can carry on through life.”
Many of TCU’s players have had to change along with the transformations that have gone on at TCU the past five years. From going in and out of new stadiums, locker rooms, conferences, to a newly built campus, TCU is ever changing.
“It has been really neat,” said Koontz. “To think that I was able to walk into the old locker room and the old stadium and to see it as it is now, while we were moving to one of the premier conferences in college football… to watch all of that, during the time I was here is pretty awesome.”
Not many players work, go to graduate school and play Division 1 football all at the same time. Koontz uses his down time to build his future after football, already working for a small accounting firm three days a week.
“It just is one more thing I hold myself accountable to. Other guys in my position I’ve seen just sleep in until practice and just go to some classes at night. I know that will not be the case after football is over so I might as well start getting used to it now.”
Already thinking about his future, Koontz looks back at his past and realizes his journey and how quickly it spiraled out in front of him. From his first years going to the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl to being a captain of the team, it is weird to think of his plans of going to a Division III school on an academic scholarship.
“I think once I’m done here I will step back and look to see how many high school players try to walk on and not make it,” Koontz said. “For me, the progressions have all happened so fast and I’ve been very fortunate to have had all of these opportunities.”
As far as Kootnz’s future, he has many options in Fort Worth through his academic and football connections. Further in the future, Koontz would also like to start his own business.
“I would like to stay around Fort Worth,” said Koontz. “Through all of my connections I have made, I would like to work in the sports industry. It doesn’t have to be football, just anything with a foundation in sports.”
No matter what happens, Koontz will have made a permanent impression on TCU’s campus with his dedicated and hardworking attitude being left behind as an example for younger Horned Frogs to come.