“Who was the only Heisman winner ever to break his trophy?” OSU great Eddie George knows the answer to this real “Jeopardy” question because it was his trophy that got stuck on the x-ray conveyor belt at LaGuardia Airport and broken by an impatient TSA guy trying to get the belt running again. (Good news: the trophy was replaced for George by the Heisman Foundation, no questions asked.)
Because of his great NFL career in the glory days of the Tennessee Titans, when he and Steve “Air” McNair led the team to Super Bowl XXXIV, folks other than Buckeye fans might not recall that twenty years after Archie Griffin took home his second Heisman, running back Eddie George collected Ohio State’s sixth trophy for his performance during the 1995 season.
Eddie’s Ohio State teams, coached by John Cooper, were very good, going 38-10-2 during his four years. Playing behind Raymont Harris his first couple of years as a Buckeye, George came into his own in his junior season, when he rushed for 1,442 yards and had a dozen touchdowns. But his name didn’t appear on many Heisman ballots.
The next year, 1995, was a different story. The trophy was his, and Eddie George worked hard for it; a look at his stats confirms that he was the epitome of “workhorse.” George carried the ball 328 times (an average of 25 runs per game), gaining 1,927 yards with a 5.9 yards per carry average. He scored 24 rushing touchdowns. George also pulled in 47 passes for another 417 yards and a TD. He led the nation in yards from scrimmage, rushing TDs, and total TDs. When the ballots were counted, the Buckeye back had won, beating out a group of quarterbacks with familiar names: Tommy Frazier, Danny Wuerffel, and Peyton Manning — Florida quarterback Wuerffel would win in ‘96.
And George’s Buckeyes were good that season. That team was ranked in the top five nearly all season, but lost the final two games to finish 11-2. Bobby Hoying quarterbacked that club and — in addition to George — had Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn in his offense. Curiously, while the Heisman winner would be taken 14th overall in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft, two Buckeye teammates — Glenn and tight end Rickey Dudley — were drafted ahead of him.
Once in the NFL, George had a sensational career. The team that drafted him, the Oilers, moved from Houston to Nashville and became the Titans after George’s first season with the team, and the running back became an emblem for a franchise that seemed to be starting over.
In his nine-year career, George rushed for over 10,000 yards, carried the ball 2,865 times, and scored 68 rushing touchdowns. Always a threat coming out of the backfield on passing plays, he had 268 career pass receptions for 2,227 yards and another 10 TDs. In the 2000 Super Bowl, George gained 130 yards from scrimmage, as the Titans fell to the St. Louis Rams, 23-16.
Following careers as a broadcaster and on Broadway, Eddie George has now returned to Nashville to become the head coach of the Tennessee State Tigers, where his old Buckeye teammate Pepe Pearson will coach the running backs. Good luck, No. 27!