Tuesday, May 30, 2017

32 Greats in 32 Days: Tennessee Titans, Eddie George


Eddie George, Tennessee Titans

Position: Running back, #27

Years played for the Tennessee Titans: 1996-2003

Height/Weight: 6’3”/235 Pounds

Eddie George is a man many people know as a talented player. But most people outside of Tennessee probably don’t appreciate just how driven this man is. They may not appreciate how influential he was on establishing Nashville as a football market. Eddie is a mythical figure around here. He carried the hopes and admiration of a fledgling fan base on his bruising shoulders. He is unquestionably a great. What’s more, he knew he was going to be great from very early on. When he was eleven years old he was practicing his Heisman speech, showing aspirations he would fulfill and surpass. He was a pioneer. Over a decade after he left the team and his impact can still be felt almost as much as any active player the Titans have had since.

Edward Nathan George Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1973. He grew up in an environment where football was everything. He attended Abington Senior High School through his sophomore year, at which point he transferred to Fork Union Military Academy. He took an optional extra prep year, spending a third year at FUMA. It was in his fifth year of high school that he developed his first major football exposure nationally where he burst on the scene as a major recruit. In his last season, he rushed for 1372 yards, and committed to Ohio State University.

When you think of Eddie George’s career at Ohio State you probably think of, success, national recognition, the Heisman Trophy, but Eddie actually had a pretty inauspicious start. When he was a freshman he was expected to contribute immediately, and he did so in early outings including a three-touchdown game against Syracuse. That early prominence in the offense would come to a grinding halt in a game against Illinois. During the game Eddie had two fumbles. The first fumble came on the Illini 4-yard line. It was driven 96 yards for a touchdown. Then, later in the game with the Buckeyes leading by two, Eddie once again fumbled the ball, this time on the Illini 1-yard line. And again, Illinois drove down the field to score, with this one being to win the game. This marked the beginning of a long period of low involvement in the offense. Going into the game Eddie had rushed 25 time for 5 touchdowns. Following the game, he only rushed 12 more times on the season without any touchdowns. This carried over into his sophomore season where he was basically an afterthought. He spent the season as OSU’s third string running back. He only carried the ball 42 times in his second year, mostly during blowouts games.

Things started to change for Eddie his junior season. He went into the year as the featured tailback, and once he got the job he never looked back. He rushed for 1442 yards and twelve touchdowns. Going into his senior season he once again entered the national spotlight, and with good reason. His senior season he developed into the Ohio State legend that he is remembered as being. He rushed for 1927 yards while receiving over 400 yards and totaling 25 touchdowns on the season. He was electrifying. Multiple 200+ yard games, a school record 314 yards rushing against Illinois, the team that lead in no small part to his lack of playing time in his early career, he separated himself as not only the best running back in the nation, but the best player. His season totals had him lead the nation in yards from scrimmage (2344), rushing touchdowns (24), and touchdowns from scrimmage/total touchdowns (25). He was awarded with the 1995 Heisman trophy in one of the tightest votes in the history of the award. Eddie had cemented himself as college football royalty.

College Accolades:

  • Heisman Trophy (1995)
  • Walter Camp Player of the Year Award (1995)
  • Maxwell Award (1995)
  • Doak Walker Award (1995)
  • Jim Brown Award (1995)
  • Consensus First Team All-American (1995)
  • Big10 Offensive Player of the Year (1995)
  • Ohio State Number 27 Retired
  • Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (2011)

But this series isn’t about the greatest collegiate player on a team. Eddie George parlayed that amazing senior season into a first-round pick. He was selected with the 14th pick by the then Houston Oilers as the third running back off the board (behind Lawrence Phillips (Rams) and Tim Biakabutuka (Panthers)). But unlike his early tenure at Ohio State, George was determined to make an early impact in his professional career. He has said post-retirement "To win the Heisman gave me the resolve that if I put my mind to it, I could do it. It taught me a valuable lesson of what can be accomplished." Determined not to become the next of many “Heisman busts,” he made the most of his rookie year.

In 1996 Eddie began a career that would define him in the eyes of many as a machine. He fell into the perfect place for a back like him to flourish: in a Jeff Fisher offense. He would share a backfield with previous 32 Greats series entry Steve McNair, the only other player more influential on the Titans development. The two would form a group that made defenses sorry they had them on the schedule. He was a force that couldn’t be stopped. Eddie was bigger than many linebackers in the league. He was built like a tight end playing running back. In the offense, he was the designated battering ram. He would “three yards and a cloud of dust” you over, and over, and over again until the linebackers were spitting teeth and having waking nightmares. The man would only ever fall forward. And he punished defenses to the tune of 1368 yards rushing and an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award that was witnessed by nobody, as this took place in the final, lame duck year in Houston where attendance was minimal and the TV broadcasts were getting bumped for preseason NBA games. But none of that mattered, Eddie was here to stay, and he would stay for a long time.

The next season marked the first in Tennessee, the state that would grow to idolize Eddie. He maintained a rarely seen trend for running backs of incredible consistency at a high level for the duration of his career. It was all the more impressive given the extremely physical nature of his play. In the next few seasons the Titans would be stuck at 8-8, but Eddie continued to churn out yards. He managed to rush for 1399 and 1294 yards in his first seasons in Tennessee. He would also begin a streak of four straight Pro Bowl appearances that would run from 1997 through 2000. This period also saw rise to one of football’s most epic battles, Eddie George vs. Ray Lewis. But it wasn’t just Ray Lewis or the Ravens. Every game in the old AFC Central division was a twelve-round heavyweight title fight. You were going to get sore just watching it on TV. But that was just fine, because if there was ever a running back built for that style of play it was Eddie.

Then in 1999 the team finally broke through. Eddie rushed for 1304 yards and was instrumental in the Titans run to the Super Bowl, gaining 391 yards from scrimmage in the three playoff games. Everybody knows about the Music City Miracle by now, but the games that followed don't get as much attention. Eddie's presence was especially felt in the second round against the Colts where he rushed for a franchise playoff record 162 yards, 68 of which came on one long touchdown run to put the Titans in a lead the Colts would not come back from. The following week the Titans beat the Jaguars, who had the league’s best regular season record, for the third time that year after sweeping them in the regular season. George’s physical, grind-it-out style was imperative in that game where McNair only threw the ball for 112 yards and an interception. Then, Super Bowl XXXIV. The Titans would fail to win this game, but it was not because of Eddie. He scored both of the Titans touchdowns in the game. He laid it all out on the field for what would be his only opportunity to play for a championship. He finished the year being named Second Team All-Pro.

While that would be as far as Eddie would go in the postseason, his regular seasons remained a testament to his trademark toughness. He rushed for over 1000 yards every season but one in Tennessee, a 2001 campaign hampered by ankle and toe injuries. Yet he played through it, stalwart in his dedication to his team and to his craft. He would go on to be named All-Pro once more in 2000, this time as a First Team member. But after the 2003 season, after dealing with more and mounting ankle and foot injuries, Eddie was released by Bud Adams. They could not come to an agreement about a contract restructuring, so George opted to leave. He signed a one year, $1.5M contract with Dallas, a decision he would later say he regretted. He only started 8 games for them in relief of injured starter Julius Jones. He would go on to officially retire in 2006.

Eddie finished his career with some very honorable distinctions. He was only the second running back to rush for over 10,000 yards without missing a start, the first being Jim Brown. He was second only to Walter Payton in consecutive regular season starts. And of course, he owns virtually every franchise rushing record in Tennessee. He was inducted into the Titans Hall of Fame on October 27th, 2008.

Since leaving football Eddie has gone on to live a very interesting life. He earned his MBA from Northwestern University. He would get involved in the political arena, being named by the former Tennessee Governor to be the spokesperson for the GetFitTN program and campaigning for Obama on his first presidential run. But what he has garnered attention for most recently is his foray into acting. Starting in local theater, Eddie worked his way into the acting community, playing such roles as Julius Caesar and Othello. And in 2016 he made his Broadway debut in Chicago. He’s also made himself seen in shows like HBO’s Ballers, as well as cutting promos for prime-time football games. Eddie George has been, and continues to be, a modern renaissance man.

User Thoughts: I never actually watched Eddie George play, and as such I don’t have a profound emotional connection from watching him become the player he was in real time. I put it to a vote on the sub who I should write about and the support was overwhelmingly in favor of George. I agreed, and I apologize if this reads a lot like a book report, because that’s basically what it is. So, I thought I would canvas the sub, see why everybody wanted me to pick Eddie, and I only got two responses to the request. Shout out to /u/MattNeely50 and /u/soiledsandwich

Eddie George stiff armed the shit out of Ray Lewis to gain 1 extra yard in a playoff game. Gary Anderson made the game winning kick shortly after by about 6 inches

/u/MattNeely50

I was a young kid when the Titans came to Nashville, but Eddie was the first name I learned, as I began what would turn into my die-hard fandom for this team and football in general. Steady Eddie was the heart and soul of the team (particularly in 1999 and 2000 before McNair really transformed into our leader). He was the face of the franchise. Never missed a start.

As far as most memorable moments (off the top of my head):

  • Scored our 2 TDs in the Super Bowl (the 2nd one dragging defenders)
  • His long 60-something TD in the playoffs vs Indy that completely changed the outlook of the game
  • Ran all over the Browns for 150+ yards and 3 TDs on a blanket white snow-covered field (I remember not even being able to see the yard lines).
  • Separated his shoulder vs Ravens in 2003 playoffs, returned after halftime to pace the offense as he'd always done (including a disrespectful stiff arm on Ray Lewis).
  • Murdered the Raiders for 200 yards on a Thursday night in our first season.

I'm probably missing more great Eddie moments but those are what came to me first.

Edit: should probably mention he was the first person (besides John Madden himself) to be featured on the cover of Madden. I guess he also started the curse because the next season was the first (and only) time he failed to break 1,000 yards with the team.

Double Edit: no one has worn #27 since Eddie.

/u/soiledsandwich



Submitted May 30, 2017 at 06:11AM by steve_millers_joker
via reddit http://ift.tt/2qx2qrS

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