George Kunz should have slowed by now. At 66, the former All-Pro tackle should be golfing or fishing or appearing at autograph shows, a battle-scarred old Colt telling tales about his time in the NFL trenches.
Not Kunz. He’s an attorney, all 6 feet 5 and 255 pounds of him, just three years out of law school and determined to make this career as estimable as his first. A Colt from 1975 through 1980, he anchored the offensive line and helped Baltimore win three straight AFC East championships.
“This has been a real kick,” Kunz said of his Las Vegas practice, which includes family law, adoptions and personal injury. “Pleading a case isn’t unlike playing tackle. You’re part of a team and you deal with referees — in this case, the judge. You learn what their limits are and how far you can go, and you push the envelope, just like in football.”
One judge, upon learning his past — eight Pro Bowl appearances in 11 years — asked for his autograph. On the sly.
“I was flattered,” Kunz said.
He was 59 when, at his wife’s urging, he entered law school at Nevada-Las Vegas in 2007. It wasn’t easy, even for the onetime Notre Dame Academic All American.
“My first day in class, I had to ask another student how to turn on my computer,” he said. “I was the oldest one there. Once I got back into the flow [of college], it got a little easier, but football killed a lot of brain cells.
“The bottom line is, I wasn’t at the top of my class, but I wasn’t at the bottom either. My goal is to be respected in what I’m doing and to help people move on in their lives.”
As a student in 2008, Kunz clerked for a judge in Clark County, Nev., at the same time O.J. Simpson was being tried and sentenced there to 33 years in prison for robbery. Thirty-nine years earlier, as college All Americans, they’d gone 1-2 in the 1969 NFL draft — Simpson to the Buffalo Bills and Kunz to the Atlanta Falcons.
The irony isn’t lost on Kunz.
“Life is a series of circles,” he said.
Part of his caseload includes pro bono work assisting low-income couples coping with family strife.
“We help people who can’t afford to get divorced by amicably resolving their disputes so they can start over, hopefully, without emotionally scarring their kids,” Kunz said.
Married 44 years, he lives 10 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip and close by another celebrated Baltimore tackle, Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens Hall of Famer who was enshrined in Canton this year. Kunz, a bulwark in the pits for both Atlanta and the Colts, doesn’t obsess on his chances for election.
“If it happens, wonderful. If not, well, the same thing happens to other guys,” he said. “I’m just proud that I gave the game everything I had.”
The Colts were awful (2-12) in 1974 before the arrival of Kunz, who was acquired — along with Atlanta’s first-round pick — for the rights to the No. 1 selection in the draft. (The Falcons took quarterback Steve Bartkowski.)
“When I got to Baltimore and mentioned I’d come from the 3-11 Falcons, people thought I was bragging,” Kunz said.
He cemented the offensive line, carving holes for Colts running back Lydell Mitchell and deflecting assaults on quarterback Bert Jones. The team jelled, going 10-4, then 11-3, then 10-4 as division winners.
“We won because of Bert’s demeanor, intelligence and ability,” Kunz said. “What power he had in his arm. Once, against Cincinnati [in 1976], as I stepped up to block I actually heard the ball leave Bert’s hand as it went by my head. It sounded like a rifle shot. Never happened before. I looked downfield and he’d led [receiver] Roger Carr perfectly for a touchdown.”
His biggest thrill? A 10-7 overtime win against the Miami Dolphins that all but clinched the division in 1975.
“That’s the game where I learned my wife, Mary Sue, was pregnant,” Kunz said.
“Before the kickoff, Dr. Edmond McDonald [the Colts team doctor] who’d been treating my wife, came up to me and said, ‘How are you doing, Daddy?’ That was the first I’d heard of it. Then, after we won, [coach] Ted Marchibroda’s wife brought all of the wives into the locker room.”
Mary Sue Kunz got the biggest hug. Their son Matt, who also played football at Notre Dame, is now a city councilman in Milton, Ga.
Kunz still chats with old teammates. Several years ago, he and fellow linemen Robert Pratt, Elmer Collett and Ken Mendenhall went quail hunting with Jones in west Texas.
“When we come together, it’s like we’ve never been apart,” he said.
Despite the football plaudits, Kunz is seldom recognized, courtroom appearances aside.
“My wife and I went out to dinner and this kid came over with paper and pencil. He said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but didn’t you used to be somebody?’ That describes the anonymity of an offensive lineman,” he said.
“If I ever write a book, that will be the title.”