Transition to theater
Former Heisman Trophy winner, NFL star Eddie George stars in ĎChicagoí

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

April 24, 2017

After a 10-year NFL career, Eddie George, center, is adapting to life on the stage and in the theater. George will be at the Marcus Center in Milwaukee starting Tuesday with the traveling Broadway production of "Chicago."
Submitted photo

Eddie George heard millions of fans roar in excitement throughout a 10-year NFL career when he broke loose for a big gain or carried the ball into the end zone.

Ten years ago, he connected with another audience, but much smaller than the one with an upward of 70,000 fans packed tightly into football stadium seats.

"I started getting involved in the community theater," said George, 43, who won the 1995 Heisman Trophy in his senior year at Ohio State University.

"The stakes are so high in live theater," he added. "The reaction, the energy is so intimate and right in the moment.

"To hear your effect on the audience about what youíre trying to do in the play, itís gratifying to know youíre telling a story. Thatís what drew me to the stage and playing various roles."

Since he retired from the NFL in 2006, George has performed in more than 100 shows and has appeared in several television shows and movies.

His latest venture brings him to the Marcus Center on Tuesday through April 30 in Milwaukee, playing the role of Billy Flynn in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "Chicago," as part of his touring Broadway debut.

"Chicago" is set in the 1920s and tells the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to leave her. Trying to avoid a conviction, Hart hires the cityís slickest criminal attorney ó Flynn ó to transform her crime into a barrage of sensational headlines.

"I love playing the role of Billy Flynn,"

George said. "Itís an iconic play, an iconic role, a great cast. To come to Milwaukee and do it is awesome."

In 1996, the following spring after George won the Heisman Trophy, the Houston Oilers ó now Tennessee Titans in Nashville ó drafted him in the first round of the NFL Draft with the No. 14 overall pick.

He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1996. For his career, he was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (1997-2000), second-team All- Pro in 1999 and first-team in 2000.

Following the 1999 regular season, George played in Super Bowl XXXIV, where the Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams, 23-16. The game is best remembered for Titans receiver Kevin Dyson being tackled at the 1- yard line on the last play of the game by the Ramsí Mike Jones. The play is known in NFL history as "One Yard Short" and "The Tackle."

"I think about it occasionally ... when people ask me about it,"

George said with a chuckle. "It was such a great experience to play in the Super Bowl. To finish at the 1-yard line ... it was kind of bittersweet. People still remember that game, but we didnít end up on the winning side of it. Thatís what hurts the most.

"Overall, to get to the Super Bowl is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and to get the opportunity to play at a high level in there, almost have a chance to win was even better."

He played with the Oilers/Titans through the 2003 season. He signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys in 2004.

He officially retired in 2006, finishing with 10,441 rushing yards ó 27th-most in NFL history.

"I fulfilled a childhood dream playing not only college football, but professionally and at a high level," George said. "That was an amazing experience for me. It goes by fast, a lot faster than you think."

So what was next?

During his playing career, he was focused on playing well for his teammates and the fans, hoping to one day win a championship. But, deep in the back of his mind, he dabbled with ideas of what to do post-football.

"I wanted to find something I love to do," George said. "I had a buddy that got me some acting roles after my playing days."

He never participated in high school or college theater. His lone acting experience during his playing days was when he appeared in a

1996 episode of "Coach," starring Craig T. Nelson.

When football was done, he began working with an acting coach.

"I really started to immerse myself into acting, tell a story on stage," George said.

Playing on a football field and being on a stage, he thought they were similar, which helped him get started.

"It was the energy of the audience, camaraderie with the other actors, it was very reminiscent of (a football team) with a common goal," George said.

After his playing career, George, a native of Philadelphia, decided to stay in the Nashville area and thatís where he got latched onto community theater.

His first role was an ensemble in a production of "Gods Trombones"

with Belcourt Theatre in Nashville in 2006. He said he was more nervous for that than he was playing in a Super Bowl or any NFL game.

"It was foreign to me," George said of acting. "Football was a different kind of nerves.

"(Being on stage) was something new and different. Thereís no doubt about it."

When he was done, he was relieved it was over and he thought it went OK. However, he also remembered feeling, "Wow. That felt good. I feel comfortable doing this. I didnít have stage fright. I didnít care what anybody thought."

In 2007, he was cast in the movie, "The Game Plan," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Heís also been cast in "Best Man Holiday" and "Into the Sun," starring Steven Seagal.

In 2012, he played Julius Caesar during the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. The next year he was Othello in the same festival. In 2015, he was in "The Whipping Man" by the Nashville Repertory Theater.

In January 2016, George made his Broadway debut with "Chicago."

"I wasnít looking for anything other than the pure joy of doing something I love to do," George said. "Itís the same gratification I got out of football. Itís something I hope I can do for the rest of my life."
 

SHOW INFO

What: "Chicago," starring former NFL star Eddie George
When: Tuesday through April 30
Where: Marcus Center, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee
Tickets: Range from $31-$131; call Marcus Center Box Office at 414-273-7206 or visit online at
www.marcuscenter.org or www.ticketmaster.com.
Info: "Chicago," winner of six Tony Awards in 1997, is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.