How Eddie George went from turning down the Tennessee State football coaching job to embracing it

Mike Organ
Nashville Tennessean

Eddie George wasn't surprised to receive a text several weeks ago from Tennessee State President Glenda Glover.

As a wealthy, high-profile Nashvillian with countless resources and connections, the former Titans All-Pro running back hears from lots of notable figures. They often want money.

"I think he thought I was calling about giving some money to TSU," Glover said.

She wasn't and George was caught off guard when Glover presented him with a unique opportunity. He felt like he'd been blindsided by a linebacker when Glover asked George if he was interested in being TSU's football coach.

There was a long pause.

"I was speechless, I was floored and I was like, 'No,' " George, who played for the Oilers/Titans from 1996-2003, said.

He said no, but in George's heart he said yes and on Tuesday Glover and first-year TSU athletics director Mikki Allen introduced George as the Tigers' new coach. Contract terms were not released.

George recalled that phone conversation with Glover during Tuesday's introductory press conference and how he was unable to move past it after initially saying he wasn't interested in taking on the enormous challenge and responsibility that comes with being a college football coach.

He had observed a similar move by NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who was named the coach at another Historically Black College and University, Jackson State, in September  and could not help but be intrigued.

"I said no at first, but I have to be honest, I had some excitement about it," George said. "It just resonated in my spirit and it wouldn't go away. I was like, man that would be pretty cool to be a head coach. I'd seen what Deion had done down at Jackson State, the energy that he has created."

The next step for George was to present the idea to his wife Tamara. There was a part of George that hoped she would say the idea was foolish. He would agree and move past it.

Her response surprised him.

"She was like, 'Well, why not?' " George said. "I wasn't ready for that."

George, 47, then put together a pros and cons list and reached out to more family, friends and perhaps most importantly, some current and former NFL coaches. That included Jeff Fisher, who had been his coach with the Titans and remained a close ally, along with current Titans coach Mike Vrabel.

"I just wanted to see what they thought this job would entail," George said. "Then I had to ask myself if I had the energy, the focus, the commitment to do this? When I got focused and locked in I said, 'This is not about me. This is about something bigger than me.'"

WHAT FISHER SAID:How Jeff Fisher helped convince Eddie George to take Tennessee State football job

Allen warned Glover that George would likely not jump at the chance to take the job. Patience and persistence would be the key in making it work.

"I said the first thing is he is going to do is pause," Allen said. "He's not going to say anything because the Eddie George that I know is very intentional about what he does. What he puts his name on; his brand."

Then came the persistency.

"As we continued to talk to him about this phenomenal opportunity, I knew I had to sell it to him because he has other endeavors off the field," Allen said. "But in my gut I knew Eddie George had all of the intangibles. He's been a winner. He's excelled as an entrepreneur. He's been a pillar of Nashville. He's the face of Nashville."

After Glover and Allen finally got George to the negotiating stage of their discussion, George went from mostly listening to the proposal and being quiet to being very vocal about his demands.

If he was going to take over he had no interest allowing the once-nationally prominent program to continue to wallow at the bottom of the Ohio Valley Conference.

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"He said lets meet and we did and we talked for three hours," Glover said. "Then we talked for three more hours and he said, 'I need this, I need that,' so I said, 'Maybe this is going to be too expensive. Maybe I don't need to do this after all.'"

At that point, however, there was no stopping George. Allen had warned Glover if George got on board with the idea he would pursue it with great passion and she was seeing that for herself.

"My goal is to get this program back to prominence," George said.

"I put my word on that," he said. I'm fully committed, totally focused on it. I have no doubt that I can be successful at this. As soon as I get off this podium, it's time to get busy. No. 1 is understanding what's needed from our team. The priority is with the kids, those players."

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