The man who ran for 3,768 yards during his career in scarlet and gray showed up for last season's game of the century against Michigan wearing a Nike T-shirt that read "Ohio State football is everything." George, now a restaurateur who owns Eddie George Grille 27 on the Ohio State campus, says that that's not too much of a different look from his normal football Saturday attire.
"On Saturday I'm pretty sure I'll be pumped up," the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner said. "What I do, I have a tradition now. Before every Michigan game, it's sad to say, I dress my dog up, my English bulldog, in an Ohio State jersey. My son has to wear a jersey and I have to wear my Ohio State hat. I think it's my fault we didn't win last week, because my son didn't have his jersey."
It might be safe to say the Ohio State legend is forgiven. In town while on assignment for Fox Sports, George held court with the local media during Monday's media day and showed that he's still quite the Buckeye supporter as time goes on.
From the opening of the press gaggle in which head coach Jim Tressel acknowledged the presence of the OSU great, George was one of the headliners of the day. George has spoken to current Buckeye tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells, giving the current back encouragement and help as he looks to climb the Ohio State rushing charts.
"He said just to go out there and play hard and play every game like it was my last," Wells said.
As for George's take on Wells, it sounds as though he has a high opinion on the Akron native.
"I love his speed," George said. "He reminds me a lot of Jim Brown in terms of how he hits the hole, his speed, his power, how he moves the pile, his excellent feet. He finds the hole very well. I think the game has slowed down for him from the beginning of the season to now. He's only going to get better coming into his next seasons. He's going to have an outstanding career as a Buckeye. Hopefully he won't break my records, but he's a great athlete."
George added the last line with a laugh, but it's clear he's been impressed with the progress of Wells. However, the current sophomore has a long way to go to catch George's career total, which ranks second in the OSU career annals behind Archie Griffin, and his OSU single-season record of 1,927 yards, set during his Heisman campaign. George also holds the single-game record of 314 yards on the ground, set against Illinois in '95.
Wells is a long way from either of those. With his 1,241 yards on the year, Beanie is no threat to George's single-season record, and his highest single game total of 221 against Michigan State Oct. 20 is a far cry from the hallowed 314.
During his Ohio State career, Buckeye teams on which George played went 1-2-1 against the Wolverines. In 1994, George ran 27 times for 71 yards and a touchdown while leading the Buckeyes to a 22-6 win. A year later, he accounted for 154 yards, but that was only half of the final total of U-M's Tshimanga Biakabatuka, who powered the Wolverines to a 31-23 win.
George said that when he first stepped onto the field before the 1992 game, he knew he the contest in which he was about to play was different than any other.
"My first year playing Michigan was with Kirk Herbstreit, and he told me that this is not like any other game. This is totally different. This is not Wisconsin or Penn State or Syracuse. This is a war," George said. "And we played them here, and when I walked out of that tunnel for warm-ups, you could feel the energy level, the difference. It was at its highest in warm-ups. The fans were excited, the Michigan band was playing. You can just feel it in your body that you want to play outstanding. Lo and behold, it turned out to be true."
George said that despite last week's 28-21 loss to Illinois, the Buckeye players won't have much trouble getting over it in order to play what he calls "the greatest rivalry in sports."
"When you see the helmets, when you see the Michigan stripes, that blue or white – whatever, based on where you're playing – it's special," he said. "You know you're part of history. You know you're part of the storied rivalry and you're part of a continuing storyline through the years. This is a game where legends are made or goats are made, one or the other."
Much has been made of the difference between the two edifices in which the teams play. Ohio Stadium, which is double-decked, is known as one of the loudest buildings in college sports, and George was asked if Michigan Stadium is in the same ballpark as far as intensity.
"No, it's not," he said. "Actually, it's overrated. It's not as loud, it's not as intense as people paint it out to be. At least I don't think so, but that's just me. I don't like Michigan."
As for a prediction for Saturday, George put what in perspective what the Buckeyes will have to do to get a win – an accomplishment he thinks will occur when the dust settles.
"Ohio State wins," George said. "I believe that we have the athletes to get it done. We have the motivation to, but it's tough. It's going to be a very hard game for us to go in there and pull off because Michigan, they feel like if they win this game, all is erased – Appalachian State, Oregon, Wisconsin.
"If you think about these kids up there and all that they've had to go through over three years, and you have one chance, the seniors, have one chance to beat Ohio State at home, for the Rose Bowl, for the Big Ten title, all that they've been through … it's going to be hell. It's going to be hell to go up there and get a victory.
"But I like Ohio State. … I think we're going to go in there and get it done because I like our defense. I like that we've been able to be very sound on defense, very stout. Our running game has been great. If we can control the game early, we can win."