George Talks Life As Heisman Winner

Eddie George set numerous Ohio State records, had great NFL success and is still in the public eye, but he didn't take long to pick his greatest accomplishment. That would be winning the Heisman Trophy in 1995, an award he discussed recently along with life both before and after winning the famous honor.

When Eddie George was a junior at Ohio State in 1994, he got some advice from two-time Heisman Trophy-winning running back Archie Griffin.

One year later, George was hoisting the sixth Heisman in Ohio State history – an accomplishment he partly credited to Griffin.

"A two-time Heisman winner, you listen to everything he says," George said. "That's exactly what I did."

Fifteen years later, George can't tell Terrelle Pryor how to throw a football – "I could barely throw a halfback pass," he said.

What he can do, though, is tell the hyped Pryor – an early contender for college football's top honor – how to comport himself heading into what many Buckeye fans expect will be a big junior season for the signal caller.

"As far as handling the pressure and how his mind-set should be, it should be on the Heisman Trophy," George said. "It should be on being the best player he could possibly be, the best quarterback he could be at Ohio State, and get them into position to win a national championship. If he does that, then everything else with that will follow."

George spoke in late June at the Greater Columbus Sports Commission's Morning Sports Report, which brought together Ohio State's four living Heisman winners. As a result, the famous posed ball carrier was on the minds of everyone gathered at the Columbus Convention Center downtown.

All agreed that winning the bronze statue was a humbling experience because of those that came before, a fact George was very proud of.

"If you win the Heisman Trophy at a school like Ohio State or USC or Notre Dame, it's a pretty special group because you're at a prestigious school, No. 1, with a rich and powerful tradition in football," George said. "You think of all the players that have come through here like Robert Smith and Rex Kern and Archie Griffin – the list goes on and on. If you can separate yourself and win a Heisman Trophy here, your legacy is cemented forever."

George was able to separate himself on the field quite nicely. After a rocky first two years filled with concern from head coach John Cooper over an early fumbling problem that reared its head against Illinois in 1992, he rushed for a solid 1,442 yards during his junior season. That was a mere prelude to his final campaign of 1995, a year in which he rumbled for 1,927 yards, a mark that still stands as the highest single-season total ever at OSU.

While holding that record at a place known for its running backs is special, perhaps even more noteworthy was his showing against Illinois that final season. As darkness descended on Ohio Stadium during a Nov. 11 showdown with the Fighting Illini, George rushed for a school-record 314 yards and scored three touchdowns in a performance for the ages.

Those memories have been seared into Ohio State lore and the minds of most Buckeye fans, and George – whose number 27 was retired by OSU – said they have made an impact on his life in Columbus.

"Anytime I can walk into a breakfast and get a cup of coffee that's free, that's great," he said with a laugh. "But outside of that, just for people to remember you, what you've done, what you've accomplished is gratifying in itself. I don't necessarily look at the fact that you're put on a pedestal or you're treated differently. People just treat you the way they're going to treat you, and I've embraced that.

"I think it's an absolute blessing to have the life that I've had, winning the Heisman Trophy and having the success that I've had on the field. People still remember that and it resonated with them on some level, and I'm just grateful for that."

Now a part of the Columbus community, George, originally from Philadelphia, owns Eddie George's Grille 27 in the campus area and also will be acting in a September play at the King Arts Complex.

But he'll always be known as a football legend in Columbus, a fact that gives him some cache with his son, Jaire.

"Finding time with my son, it's very special to me because he's becoming a grown man and seeing my home and embracing Ohio State tradition," he said. "Looking at his face when he walks out on that field, he sees my pictures and everything. That means a lot to me right now. I'm really just living life to the fullest, enjoying every moment and just seeing what life brings next."

And if that life involves free coffee every once in while to go with one bronze trophy, that's fine with George.

"Everybody remembers the Heisman winner," he said. "Heismans are forever."

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