Eddie George’s prolific post-game career comes to a halt at Chicago Bears OTA on diversity coaching scholarship – The Denver Post
Eddie George had no intention of coaching football.
The long hours turned off the former Tennessee Titans All-Pro running back. He liked having time to invest in his golf game. He was building his wealth management business and starring in movies, TV shows, and plays, including appearing on Broadway as Billy Flynn in “Chicago.”
“Trying to win a HEGOT,” George said. “It’s Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, but Heisman is on the front.”
The 1995 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State laughed after delivering the line like a pro from his seat in a Halas Hall boardroom.
George was taking a quick break from a turbulent three weeks with the Chicago Bears as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, a program designed to give minority coaches experience at the NFL level. Florida State co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Randy Shannon, the former Miami head coach, is also present at team activities hosted by the Bears.
Nine days into his stint, George had roamed the entire Bears facility, not only attending meetings and football practices, but consulting with support staff and even picking the brains of the president and chief executive. Bears management Kevin Warren. George’s goal is to gather strategies from across the organization to bring them back to Tennessee State, where he is entering his third year as head coach.
“Every day I try to find one thing, just one thing that I can take with me, because it’s a lot,” George told the Tribune. “Three weeks isn’t enough time to really take it all in, so I try to give myself the grace to say, ‘OK, go with the experience and just try to learn something new every day, and also to be a resource for the young men who are here who have questions.
When Bears running backs coach David Walker asked George to apply, noting that the Bears were specifically looking to do something for head coaches, George didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to learn.
Just over two years ago, Tennessee State offered George the chance to become its head coach. In the NFL, George rushed for 10,441 yards in nine seasons, started 130 consecutive games and made four Pro Bowls. But he had no coaching experience.
Being the CEO of a football program intrigued George, and he wondered if he would regret turning down the offer from the state of Tennessee. He knew he would. And he believed in the experiences that got him to this point. He knew football from his playing career, leadership from being a father of two sons, how to listen as an actor and how to plan from his businesses.
“So all of that prepared me for this moment,” he said.
George’s Tennessee State teams went 9-13 in his first two seasons. His third season will begin with a trip to Notre Dame, the first time the Irish will face an HBCU team and a game that would come with a $1 million payday for Tennessee State.
As George prepares for his third year, the OTAs presented a good time to join the Bears. Tennessee State players are away from the facility until summer classes and conditioning begin in early June. He still holds staff meetings every day at 1:30 p.m. between practices and Bears meetings.
George said he starts his day at 5:30 a.m. with a workout before connecting with different people at Halas Hall. He attends special teams meetings because he believes in the great special teams game.
Naturally, he’s drawn to offensive meetings over the Bears’ running game, which he duly noted set a franchise-record 3,014 rushing yards in 2022 under new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. George takes note of what they teach, emphasize and call out.
As George has gone from actor and businessman to coach, his biggest learning curve has been dealing with people – understanding who he wants and doesn’t want on his program, trying to get them on board and properly articulate his vision to inspire them.
The camaraderie with the Bears gives him the opportunity to examine different leaders, including coach Matt Eberflus.
“Very cool and calm,” George said of Eberflus. “I love his approach. I like how he’s a no frills guy. He knows what he wants. I never heard him swear at anyone. He talks to you like a man. And his staff was great too.
Eberflus said George consults with staff members in charge of nutrition, strength and conditioning, and game management, among other things.
And George meets with Warren, exploring how he plans to build an organization that can sustain a championship culture for the long term. George is fascinated by how to do things right in a program.
“How you pay attention to detail because the players can feel it and feel it,” George said. “If you cut corners in any aspect of this building, they’ll see it and they’ll cut corners. So, I watch all of this and want to know everything, right down to how they fold the towels and get your laundry back to you in a timely manner.
“All the things that you don’t necessarily think are important, they really do. Everyone is watching. And how do you hold people accountable for that? »
The scholarship is named after former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who started an internship program for minority coaches during his training camp in 1987. The league eventually adopted the scholarship for all the teams. Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith and Marvin Lewis are among the coaches who have gone through it.
The Bears have had several former players, including Nathan Vasher, Roosevelt Williams and Henry Burris, who participated in the program. They will be adding more coaches as part of the training camp schedule.
George and Shannon are particularly big additions this year for OTAs, and their presence also benefits the Bears.
“We certainly rely on these guys for the information they have,” Eberflus said. “Really, our guys have gleaned a lot of information about (George) and are constantly asking him questions. So it’s been pretty cool having him around.
Eberflus asked George to address the players.
George talked about the rare opportunity they have in the NFL and the things they can do to make it last, including not getting too comfortable. He talked about his four pillars: physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being. And he advised them to prepare for what comes after football, starting with how they behave as players.
He began to understand the latter during his later years in the game, when he started a landscape architecture business before earning his MBA at Northwestern.
“Football is not the ultimate solution, simply put. It’s a route to your goal,” George said. you than in your life as a footballer.
“But the years you have as a football player, especially in an organization like this, if you do well here – not just on the football pitch but in terms of character, integrity, who you are – it can last a lifetime. ”