On Your Marc 3/8/16

By George, he could play

By Marc Katz

Since Eddie George graduated from fumbling twice against Illinois as an Ohio State freshman to eventually winning the 1995 Heisman Trophy as a senior, it would not be unreasonable to assume he’ll someday become a trophy winner on Broadway.

That would put him in a unique classification, including only himself.

I know, big leap from having parts on Broadway to winning a Tony, but look how far all our candidates for President have taken their personal fantasies.

The thing is, no one in the past or foreseeable future has a Heisman on the mantle and has a chance to pair it with something from Broadway, and George is playing lawyer Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago right now.

Okay, the wife just got involved, and I am told we have something close to what George has accomplished in Magic Johnson.

Johnson, of course, is the 1979 All-America from Michigan State who also won three NBA MVP trophies and—surprise, surprise—a Grammy for the best spoken word album in 1993. It was an album about what a person could do to avoid AIDS.

Johnson is also an entrepreneur, for a time owning a piece of baseball’s Dayton Dragons.

Thanks for stopping by, Magic.

Also, there have been plenty of football-playing actors in the past—Paul Robeson, Alex Karras, Fred Dryer, Joe Namath to name a few—although none have won the arts awards we’re talking about.

Back to Eddie George, who arrived at Ohio State in 1992.

From the Philadelphia area, George was seen by most recruiters as a 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker even though he played an extra year of prep school to hone his skills as a running back. In addition, deep in one of his biographies, are ballet lessons he took as a child to help his footwork, both in sports and, now, theater. He knew what he wanted, even at a young age.

“If we had recruited him as a linebacker, we probably would have lost him to Penn State,” former OSU coach—and Hall of Fame coach—John Cooper told me the other day. “We used to tell our recruits, ‘We want you on our team. Tell us what position you want to play.’”

George wanted to play tailback, and Cooper was fine with that.

This move looked especially good in the third game of the season when George scored three touchdowns at Syracuse.

Two games later, George fumbled twice near the Illinois goal line at Ohio Stadium in a game the Illini turned around to win.

George became a forgotten back on a team that had four guys ahead of him who eventually played in the pros—Robert Smith, Raymont Harris, Jeff Cothran and Butler By’Not’e.

If you’re counting at home, that’s five running backs on the same team that eventually played in the NFL.

None played in the pros longer than George (nine years), and even though I’m partial to Dayton’s Keith Byars and double-Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, it would be difficult to dispute the senior year George compiled in 1995 as the greatest by a running back in school history. He ran for a school-record 1,927 yards, scored 24 touchdowns on the ground and caught 47 passes for 417 more yards and another touchdown.

“Eddie had a great work ethic,” Cooper says. “I kept hearing, after those fumbles, ‘Woody [Hayes] wouldn’t have played him any more.’ Well, he had too great a work ethic. And he kept getting better. The game where he won the Heisman Trophy was the Illinois game.”

What a reverse smackdown. The same team he fumbled against three years earlier, George shredded for 314 yards on a cold, windy, rainy day at Ohio Stadium, late in the season, game 10, on Nov. 11, 1995.

Even though George ran for more than 1,400 yards as a junior, he wasn’t highly considered for post-season honors until the games started.

Now, he not only has a Heisman, he’s in the College Football Hall of Fame, rushed for more than 10,000 yards in the pros and has done more than play a few golf games since he retired as a player.

He has been a television and radio commentator, owned a landscape architecture business (which was his OSU degree), earned an advanced business degree at Northwestern, opened a restaurant in Columbus and began to dabble in theater.

All this from a guy most schools were recruiting as a linebacker who wanted to play tailback.

“Nothing would surprise me about Eddie,” Cooper said.

Well, he didn’t say anything about George winning a Tony, and maybe we’re getting way ahead of the game. Maybe Eddie George, the former football player, won’t win any awards for the way he plays on Broadway. But it didn’t look like he was going to win any awards for the way he played college football, either, until he did.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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