YSU Welcomes NFL Star to Campus

Photo courtesy of Christine Shelton

By Brian Yauger

Youngstown State University welcomed former NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George to campus on Tuesday as a part of the YSU Thomas Colloquium series of speakers.

Eddie George spent the most of his career with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, where he was named to the NFL All-Pro Team. He rushed for 10,441 yards and was a key factor in the Titans’ playoff run that got them one yard away from a Super Bowl title in 2000.

Now, George is a jack-of-all-trades, doing everything from financial advice and teaching at his alma mater, The Ohio State University, to acting, even having a stint on Broadway as the role of Billy Flynn in the hit musical “Chicago.”

Sometimes as an athlete a person gets pigeonholed and is expected to “stick to sports,” but that’s not something that George worried about.

“I don’t worry about the perception that other people have about me,” George said. “I focus on the perception of myself. If I do that successfully, things will materialize the way they should be. I just go towards the things that I am passionate about, that I love to do,  I can be the best in the world at, and I keep it simple with that and I just work on that craft until I have that breakthrough.”

George spoke to a room of YSU’s athletes, students and faculty and discussed life after the game. George’s own career was cut short due to injuries.

“Athletes die twice, once when they lose their careers,” George said. “It was a place of uncertainty, it was scary. I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do with my time now?’ For so long I was preparing my mind, my body, my spirit for the rigors of an NFL season. I had a routine and the routine was now gone. That can be a very dangerous place without a guiding light.”

George went on to detail the dangers of time without a guiding light.

“You’re going to do things that make you comfortable,” George said. “Maybe it’s hanging out with friends in the clubs, maybe it’s gambling. It was drinking, to get a good rest at night I was taking Ambien. One led to two, two led to two-and-a-half and then one day my business manager told me I passed out at the table and said ‘Help me,’ and I don’t remember that.”

When it comes to facing challenges, George recommends four pillars of wellness: spiritual, mental, physical and social.

What brought George to campus? Almost every big name in the football world will tell you the same thing.

“Jim Tressel,” George said. “The relationship I’ve had with him over the decade. When he asks you to come, you come and do it. He’s doing wonderful things at Youngstown State, and any time I can impart some wisdom on the kids about my history and things that I’ve been through to inspire them to be their best selves, that’s what I want to do.”

Tressel described George as a “terrific American success story.”

“My hopes were that through his visit and wisdom, that countless YSU Penguins and community members would be inspired that they too could realize their dreams and aspirations,” he said. “Eddie certainly gave us the blueprint for success.”

George ended his career with four Pro-Bowl appearances and was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame after his time at OSU.