When Tennessee State first approached Eddie George about becoming its head coach, he ran away from it.
“It’s a huge responsibility. One that I did not take lightly. When I was presented with the opportunity a few weeks ago I was speechless. I was floored.” George told the media on Tuesday. “I was like— no— in the beginning.”
TSU Director of Athletics Dr. Mikki Allen said he wasn’t deterred by that. In fact, he anticipated it.
“The Eddie George I know — and I’ve been watching — is very intentional about what he does,” he said. “What he puts his name on. His brand. And as we continued to talk to him about this phenomenal opportunity, I knew I had to sell it to him.”
He began to put some thought into it. And what was going on at another HBCU caught his eye.
“I had some excitement about it. Like, man that would be pretty cool to be a head coach,” he said. “I seen what Deion was doing at Jackson State, the energy that he created.”
Still on the fence about the idea, George said he told his wife about it. Tamara George, part of the legendary group SWV, didn’t have any doubts her husband could do the job.
“I said, Tamara, listen to this. They want me to be the head coach at Tennessee State University,” he told the crowd. “She said, well, why not?”
George also reached out to coaches, weighed out pros and cons, reached out to friends and asked a lot of questions. He also had to look at his obligations. He was already an entrepreneur and a Broadway actor, in addition to being a husband and a father.
“I had to be honest with myself and say ‘hey, can I do this?” George said. “I got focused and locked in, I said this is not about me. It’s about something bigger than me.
The former All-Pro running back isn’t getting just ANY HBCU football job. He’s getting one of the most prestigious jobs in HBCU and FCS football in terms of history. And he says he’s not oblivious to it.”
Eddie George arrived in Nashville 24 years ago when the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee. He said since then he’s come to learn about the tradition of TSU.
“I was very familiar with the 13 national black championships that they won here,” he said. “The Hall of Fame coaches like Henry Deane and Howard Gentry, Sr., John A. Merritt, Joe Gilliam Sr. Great players like Richard Dent, Claude Humphrey.”
Of course, none of those men are walking through the door today. And TSU has been a middle-of-the pack program in the Ohio Valley Conference for much of the last decade. It finished 2-5 during the abbreviated spring season. Still, that doesn’t mean expectations are lowered. And George says he’s fine with that.
“Taking this job on carries a lot of weight. I have some big shoes to fill. But I feel like I’m the man to get the job done. I’m extremely excited. We have a lot of work to do. This is a day of excitement. And I’m proud to be a Tiger. Go Big Blue.”
George has never coached before. On any level. He didn’t shy away from that, knowing that there will be “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.”
“Every aspect of this opportunity, I’ve been through. I’ve been recruited. My sons have been recruited. So I understand that world. Now to get into the nuances of it — that’s what the learning curve is going to be.”
In that, George asked for patience as he embraces the challenge.
“The number one goal is to win and to bring prominence back to this university,” he said. “Where it belongs.”