Eddie George had a storied college and professional football career. The former running back won the Heisman Trophy playing for Ohio State in 1995, was drafted No. 14 overall by the Houston Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans, in 1996, won the NFL Offensive Rookie of Year award the same year, and went on to rush for 10,441 yards over nine seasons.
Like Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who took over the head coaching position at Jackson State last September, George is carving his path as a head coach at HBCU Tennessee State. The Philadelphia Pennsylvania native earned his first win last Saturday as the Tigers defeated Kentucky State 41-7. TSU is now 1-2 and will play at Southeast Missouri State this Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN’s streaming platform.
“Getting that first win feels good as a head coach,” said George as reported by HBCU Sports. “You can never say I didn’t win, so that feels good.” The yet to be determined results of George and Sanders could have a ripple effect on other HBCUs, who may employ the same model of hiring a high profile figure with a notable NFL pedigree to attract top high school recruits, FBS (formerly Division I-A) transfers and boosters to build their programs to distinction.
George replaced longtime TSU coach Ron Reed, who had been with the Tigers since 2010. He was joined by Hue Jackson, who is the team’s offensive coordinator. Jackson has extensive NFL coaching experience, including as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2016-2018. George’s yearly salary of $400,000 is much more than the 2020 average United States household median income of a little under $62,000. Yet it is substantially less than the $8.7 million haul this year of the University of Alabama’s Nick Saban, who heads the top collegiate program in the country.
But George sees his job less about money and more about a new challenge and mission of giving back. “When I was presented with this opportunity a few weeks ago I was speechless. I was floored,” George said at his introductory press conference in April.
“I was like, ‘no’ in the beginning,” George said. “But, I have to be honest, I had some excitement about it. I was like, ‘That would be pretty cool to be a head coach.’ I had seen what Deion [Sanders] had done with Jackson State, the energy he created. Coaching wasn’t at the forefront of my mind … But again it resonated in my spirit and it wouldn’t go away.
“…Leadership and being a head coach is about service and serving others,” he continued, “and I’m at a place in my life where I’m ready to do just that and whatever comes with that, the good, the bad and the ugly, I’m willing to deal with it and move accordingly because my goal is to get this program back to prominence.”