Ex-OSU RB Eddie George Comfortable Onstage
This story also appears on Yahoo! Sports.
Former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George is commonly described as a Renaissance Man for his various interests away from the football field.
His next venture takes that to a whole new level.
Starting Thursday, George will play Julius Caesar in the Nashville Shakespeare Festival that runs until January 29th at Belmont University. For cynics that believe this will turn out like the infamous 1991 action film “Stone Cold” starring ex-NFL linebacker Brian Bosworth, think again.
“I’m not fresh off the football field and jumping into theater for a publicity stunt. This is something that I take very serious, that I’ve taken very serious and I’ve been focusing on since my playing days have been done,” said George, who retired after the 2004 season.
He has trained with acting coaches for years for this moment and performed in several local plays before. He even has his own acting troupe in Nashville, where he is still beloved for leading the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.
And now the man who transformed from a fumbling freshman at Ohio State into a four-time Pro Bowler has taken his legendary work ethic to the stage and this lead role.
George regards theater as the “training camp” of acting where hopeful thespians learn the fundamentals of the profession.
“I looked at the greatest actors that have performed and they all have one thing in common and that is theater,” George said. “Whether that is Denzel Washington to Al Pacino (or) Robert De Niro.”
Check out George’s description of preparing for roles.
“(It’s) not just reading a script for the words, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There’s just so much work. It’s like you’re investigating this character, you’re doing so much research about the character and understanding him on a soul level and understanding the intention … You may have five words that you’re going to say, but it’s going to come from a foundation.”
Yes, George caught the acting bug. That’s why he has carved out time to pursue it on top of getting his MBA from Northwestern, starting his own restaurant, launching a company that promotes fitness and co-founding another in landscape architecture.
According to the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner and 24th leading rusher in NFL history, going onstage fills the void of the same adrenaline rush he loved on the gridiron.
“When you look at artists, they all want to be athletes,” George said. “And athletes want to be artists because that same through-line is the instant gratification of the crowd and being in the moment.
“As athletes, you’re entertainers. You see guys nowadays after they score touchdowns, they’re doing something entertaining. Whether it’s a football dance or something that they’re acting out, something that catches the attention of viewers and fans. You live for that.”
Unfortunately, athletes-turned-actors are often met with skepticism from the public after witnessing the likes of Bosworth and former New York Giant Michael Strahan, whose FOX sitcom “Brothers” was cancelled after one season in 2009.
“By taking on roles that people least expect me to take,” George coolly replied.
If that’s the case, mission accomplished. NFL players are expected to take on acting roles either playing themselves (Dan Marino in “Ace Ventura”), renegade cops (Bosworth in “Stone Cold”) or hulking henchmen (Howie Long in “Broken Arrow”).
Instead, George reversed field.
“A lot of the things I am doing within my acting ensemble (are) taking myself out of my comfort zone of being the hard-core, macho guy,” George said.
George has an eclectic list of favorite films and plays he enjoys plus actors he admires that range from Denzel Washington to Anne Hathaway. It should suit him well in his stated goal of becoming a “chameleon” onstage that can handle a wide array of roles.
As for the silver screen, George has already appeared in a handful of films such as the 2007 flick “The Game Plan” featuring The Rock. George also has a role in an upcoming Rob Lowe film called “Knife Fight.” If the demand is there for his new career, he’s willing to partially relocate to Los Angeles.
And while George, 38, is now almost a decade removed from the NFL gridiron, his football career is never far from his mind. He still won’t let himself forget that the Titans came up one-yard short of sending Super Bowl XXXIV against the St. Louis Rams to overtime on the game’s final play.
“That’s something that lives with me every day and it’s not a bad thing, it serves me as a driving force: Hey, you know what, I’ve still got a lot of life in me, a lot of ambition and I’m always going to be at that goal line trying to score.”
Eddie George, poet?
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Photo courtesy of Jeff Frazier/Nashville Shakespeare Festival