He'll be inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday. In September, he'll be inducted into the University of Arkansas Hall of Fame.
"I don't know if people are thinking I'm about to die or what and trying to get me in before I do," Koch said after finishing the ninth hole at the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame Golf Classic on Monday at The Bull in Sheboygan Falls.
"I've been calling everybody from underneath my bed. It's just been a magical year. It's good to know that people appreciate your efforts. What can you say about the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame? It's a who's who in the NFL and probably the most storied historical franchise in the league. You go anywhere across the country and people love the Packers. I'm greatly humbled and honored. It means a lot to me."
Koch was a standout and tough-as-nails right tackle for the Packers from 1977 through 1985, playing for some of the most explosive offenses in franchise history. More than two decades after his career ended in 1987, Koch got a surprising phone call telling him of his selection to the Packers Hall of Fame.
"Honestly, what took so long?" Koch joked when asked of his reaction. "No, the reaction was, I was driving home from work and I called my fiancee and told her that something I didn't think was going to happen happened. It brought a tear to my eye, I've got to admit."
In the 1977 NFL Draft, Koch got a call from Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, who was about to select Koch with the 40th overall pick. Instead, Koch wound up going to Green Bay at No. 39.
"Shula said they were going to take me in the second round," Koch recalled. "I was making plans to go down there for a press conference. He said an expletive and hung up — didn't even say good-bye. I said, ‘What?' and he said, ‘The Packers took you,' and hung up the phone. Two seconds later, the phone rang and it was Bart (Starr). It was great. I called my father, of course. He was watching in the Adams Petroleum Building in Houston, because Bud Adams owned the Oilers and he showed the draft."
Koch said his dad cried when the Packers drafted him. While they lived in Texas, his dad worked for Kimberly-Clark, so he frequently visited the mills in Neenah and Menasha, two cities located about a half-hour south of Green Bay. Koch followed his dad's fan allegiance, with the family relishing the Packers' famed Ice Bowl win over the Cowboys.
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Unfortunately for Koch, the Packers were mired in mediocrity for most of his career in Green Bay. Only the strike-shortened 1982 team made the playoffs, with a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round before losing a wild shootout at Dallas.
"Very proud. Very proud," Koch said of his career. "Do I think we should have won some championships? I do. In 1983, they had us picked to win the Super Bowl. We go down to play Houston in the first game and lose both nose men on that horrible Astroturf. We just couldn't stop anybody. But nobody wanted to play our offense, I'll tell you that."
That's for sure. The 1982 Packers led the NFC in scoring with 226 points (25.1 points per game). In 1983, the Packers established a franchise scoring record with 429 points (26.8 per game). Unfortunately, the Packers settled for an 8-8 record because the defense allowed a franchise-record 439 points.
"I think when we played, we were a tale of two teams," he said. "We had no defense and we had a great offense. I was lucky enough to be part of a great offense, and I'm very proud of that."
The public perception is that championship rings are what define a professional athlete. Koch doesn't see it that way.
"I got the privilege of playing under one of the classiest guys you're ever going to meet on this planet with Bart Starr," Koch said. "I think Bart will be the first one to tell you that putting a (championship) ring on your finger doesn't give you honor. It's the things that you do on the field, it's how you treat your teammates, it's how you play as a team. There's a lot of honor in that. We kind of go too far now in putting sports guys on a pedestal. There's honor in what you do every day and doing it to the best of your ability. There's honor in being a good father and being a good brother or sister or mother — you name it. And so, this is all passing. Hopefully through the years, I've learned how to be a better human being and just help people."
Today, Koch is in his 17th year as a trial lawyer in Houston. Of his three children, two are in college and one has graduated.
"I wish I was making the money these guys are making nowadays!" Koch joked. "But I'm proud that I was able to go on and do something else. While I certainly enjoy my Packer years and I love the fact that I played pro football, which everybody would love to do, I'm also glad that I was able to do something else and succeed in another area, as well. I'm very happy and have no complaints."
One common thread among the Vince Lombardi-era players is that the iconic coach's lessons weren't relevant only to the football field. Koch agreed that while football doesn't define who he is, it is a big reason for the man he is today.
"I think you develop a work ethic. If you're any good, you develop a work ethic that you take into every aspect of your life," Koch said. "Being an attorney, there's a competitive nature, as well. I look at it as war, just like I do with football. I was lucky enough to be around some very classy individuals. When I was at Arkansas, our head coach was Frank Broyles, our offensive coordinator was Joe Gibbs and our defensive coordinator was Jimmy Johnson. I've been around good people all my life, and luckily, some of that has rubbed off on me.
"To join those two fraternities — man, what an honor."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.