Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star Eddie George on transitioning to the Broadway stage
Author Justin Goldman Illustration Matt Murphy
In 2005, after a nine-year stint in the NFL, running back Eddie George found himself retired at age 31. In his search for a new career, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner got bit by the acting bug. He scored roles in Nashville productions of Othello and Julius Caesar, and this month he makes his Broadway debut, playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. Here, the former football star gives tips on going from jock to drama geek.
On finding a second career: “When I stopped playing ball, like any other player I went through the search for what’s next. Of course, there was commentating. I found the acting bug through trying to get better as a commentator. I took acting lessons and started reading stories, getting into scripts and so forth to work on my craft, and I fell in love with the art of telling a story.”
On pregame jitters vs. stage fright: “You always have pregame jitters. If they’re not there, you’re not alive. [With acting,] it’s a little different: You can’t physically change the outcome of the play. You’ve got to stick to the script.”
On landing a role in Chicago: “I saw Chicago in Nashville with Kathleen O’Brien, who is the president of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. I said I would love to play Billy Flynn, so she made a couple of phone calls, and two weeks later she said, ‘I got you an audition to go up to New York.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, I gotta really go do this now!’ So I went up there, put on my best suit, got a top hat, and I said, ‘Hell, if I do it, I’m gonna go all out and get it. If I crack a note, so what?’ And they liked it enough to say, ‘Hey, we want to give you a shot.’”
On what’s harder—hitting the high note or getting hit by Ray Lewis: “That high note—you’ve got to trust it’s gonna be there. Whereas you kind of know Ray Lewis is coming, so you just brace for impact. [Laughs.]”