Millions of fans watch men and women compete in college sports nearly every day. Fans build a strong bond for their favorite school and the athletes who participate, year in and out. Do you ever wonder what happens to these college athletes once their eligibility has run out?

This is where Athlos 360 comes into play.

George Koonce Jr. is a former collegiate and professional football player who started eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers during the team’s return to National Football League prominence, which included a Super Bowl XXXI championship.

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Following his professional football career, which ended with the Seattle Seahawks in 2000, Koonce was motivated to create a platform to empower college athletes with the knowledge and guidance to successfully transition to the professional work force.

As a doctoral student at Marquette University, Koonce studied the barriers facing collegiate athletes in establishing careers off the sports field. Unlike other students, college athletes are not allowed to work during their college years. A typical daily schedule for an athlete lasts from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. and affords no time for career planning and development.

“Athlos 360 is a tool that will level the playing field, other students are able to get internships and work experience, Athlos 360 will help bridge the gap.” Koonce said.

Student-athletes will be able to create profiles that are accessible to potential employers while developing “soft skills” prior to graduation. Resources will be available for mastering writing skills, resume building, interview techniques and more, Koonce said.

This service will provide a network of businesses with internships and full-time positions for student-athletes in the system, he added. Athlos 360 will match student-athletes personalities and career interests with companies that have a similar culture and available jobs.

“This service does not currently exist for these college athletes and so they are challenged to be successful in making this transition,” said Koonce, who now works at Marian University in Fond du Lac.

It is estimated that of the 450,000 student athletes who participate in college athletics each year, 78 percent struggle to develop the soft skills necessary for employment opportunities. “These athletes are a largely untapped workforce, armed with focus, discipline, an inherent pursuit of excellence, and years of experience working as part of a team.” Koonce said.

Athlos 360 is a finalist in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Competition. As a familiar face in Wisconsin since 1992, Koonce is on a mission to put the state in the forefront of a nationally compelling issue surrounding college athletes – helping those students find work after the final whistle has blown on their athletic careers.

— By Jake Keefer, for . Keefer is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.