Second act for Eddie George
Former Ohio State and NFL running back enjoying life as a stage actor.
As the crowd buzzes in anticipation, Eddie George is getting nervous again.
For nine years in the NFL following a Heisman Trophy-winning career at Ohio State, George’s butterflies were confined to the locker room before he took the field as a star running back. But now, in his new role as an accomplished stage actor, the juices get flowing while he waits in the wings.
“You see the lights go dim, and you hear the music begin to swell, and you know the world is now transformed,” George said in a recent interview with Ohio State Alumni magazine. “You have the anticipation and the nerves, and it really does remind you of how you felt before a big game.”
George will hopscotch across the country this spring with the touring company of the Tony Award-winning hit musical Chicago. He plays the part of the Windy City’s slickest-talking lawyer, Billy Flynn. Ohio stops are in Toledo, April 20–23, and Akron, May 9–10.
Also on tap this spring for Eddie the thespian is the lead role in a Nashville Repertory Theatre production of A Raisin in the Sun, the first Broadway play written by an African American woman, Lorainne Hansberry. George plays the part of Walter Lee Younger, portrayed by Sidney Poitier on Broadway in 1959 and on film in 1961. The show runs March 23–April 15.
For George, theater has served as a salvation of sorts as he struggled to figure out life once his football career ended in 2004.
“It was a place for me to take the energy and focus and drive that was part of my life in football and put it toward a new craft,” George said. “As I got better, I thought, ‘You know, this really, really feels right. This feels good. How can I get more of this feeling?’”
George said his approach as an actor is to dig into the script and get a personal read on his character rather than watch how others have played the part.
“I enter it as a completely empty cup and interpret it the way that I see it,” George said. “Now, once I get farther along in the process and kind of have my interpretation set, I do look at the choice other actors made. But I have to find what is true for me and always look to get every little bit of juice out of those moments.”
George’s 2017 acting gigs come after favorable reviews of performances over the past several years, including a 2016 Broadway run in Chicago and leading man roles at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival as the title characters in Othello and Julius Caesar.
With various business ventures, a gig teaching a Fisher College of Business class at Ohio State and a busy home life as a father of two, the one thing George doesn’t have is free time.
“I really have to prioritize,” he said. “When I’m at track practice with my son, I have a script with me. If I’m at a function with my wife, and we have some in-between time, I’m always trying to be productive.”