How Eddie George can win at Tennessee State with no coaching experience

Mike Organ
Nashville Tennessean

Eddie George has always shown up prepared. 

After spending endless hours in the weight room, the former Tennessee Titans All-Pro running back became bigger and stronger than many of the defenders trying to bring him down.

Before starting his various business ventures, he returned to school and graduated with a master's degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.

He hired an acting coach and took lessons for more than a decade before embarking on an acting career that landed him on Broadway.

He studied local and national political issues before agreeing to serve as co-chair of the Metro Nashville Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee and campaigning for Barack Obama's first presidential bid.

So how has George prepared for the next big challenge in his life — taking over as football coach at Tennessee State?

GEORGE'S SALARY:Here's how much Eddie George will make as Tennessee State's football coach and his contract incentives

FISHER'S INFLUENCE:How Jeff Fisher helped convince Eddie George to take Tennessee State football job

"The thing Eddie does in everything he has been involved in is build relationships; he's a guy you can trust," said George's former Ohio State and Titans teammate, Chris Sanders, who is an assistant coach at Montgomery Bell Academy. "When you have a guy that you can trust and then he lays down the vision and everybody buys in, that's what a coach does. That's Eddie; that's why he's so special and the right person for this job."

George admitted he never spent much time thinking about becoming a coach until TSU president Glenda Glover and athletics director Mikki Allen presented him with the idea in March. So he hasn't spent nearly as much time preparing to coach as he did for many of his other endeavors.

After initially saying no to the idea, however, George continued to listen.

He called it his "intuition" that kept him interested. Maybe he didn't need any special training. Maybe he already possessed what he needs for this challenge and never realized it until it was put before him.   

"When Eddie alludes to his intuition, I think it's him being a guy that didn't want to coach early on in his NFL career, didn't think about it because he knew the time it takes away from you and your family; it's worse than being a player, honestly," said former Titans receiver Derrick Mason.

"But I think toward the latter part of his career, or even years after he retired, Eddie felt it could be a possibility for him," Mason said. "When a job like that comes across your plate, if there's any itch to coach, then you're going to think about it long and hard and that's what Eddie did."

Looking back at their time together — in practice and in games, in the huddle and in meetings — Mason recalled how George was seen by his teammates as sort of a coach on the field. He was a driving force who helped the Titans reach Super Bowl XXXIV. 

"He was a leader," Mason said. "We had multiple guys on that team who were leaders. Some were more vocal and some were quiet and led by example like Steve McNair. Eddie was drafted to be a leader of a franchise and he did that in all of his years with the Titans. He was vocal and he also led with his actions. He was a guy that was going to put in the work, and he said something when something needed to be said."

George has confidence in his organizational skills and believes his boldness to step to the forefront will help him overcome his lack of experience on the sideline.

"Leadership and being a head coach is about service, serving others," he said. "I'm at a place in my life where I'm ready to do just that. Whatever comes along with that — the good, the bad and the ugly — I'm willing to deal with it and move accordingly. I've been a mentor my whole life. I've been mentoring my sons my whole life. I've been in business and board meetings. There are so many elements and components that have prepared me for this moment."

Still, there will be choices and decisions he'll have to make on the spur of the moment that he's never had to make before. There will be Xs and Os he'll have to learn that come more natural to coaches he'll face who have been on the job for years.

"The nuances of coaching in-game, yeah I'm going to get criticized for not going for it on fourth down or not calling a timeout," George said.

"Maybe we should go for a two-point conversion when I go for one. There will be Monday-morning quarterbacks. I was that when I was an NFL analyst. So I know that's coming. That's where the learning curve is going to come in and I'm going to have to ask for patience and support."

That support could come from those George surrounds himself with on his staff.

He reportedly will bring former Titans coach Jeff Fisher on in an advisory role and will hire former NFL coach Hue Jackson as his offensive coordinator.

"Jeff has been in situations where he's been a head coach, so there's going to be times where Eddie's going to have to lean on him to make the right decision," Sanders said. "And Eddie will have to do the same thing with (Jackson). I know Eddie and I know he's smart enough to do that. And if they all work together like that it's going to be something special to see."

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MIkeOrganWriter.