Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!

I remember covering the 1995 Ohio State football team, and it seemed every home game there were continous chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" blasting inside Ohio Stadium.

That season culminated with a home game against Illinois in which Eddie George rushed for an Ohio State record 314 yards against a solid Fighting Illini defense. That performance essentially clinched the Heisman Trophy for George.

Four years earlier, ironically against Illinois, I covered one of George's first games as a Buckeye. Afterward, I never thought we would ever hear of George again following OSU's crushing 18-16 loss to the Illini at Ohio Stadium. George, a freshman, fumbled twice inside the opponent's 5-yard line. One fumble was returned 96 yards for a touchdown. The other occurred at the 1 with the Buckeyes' leading by two in the fourth quarter. Illinois then drove 99 yards for the winning score.

George was banished to the bench for the next two seasons. Finally, as a junior, he was given a shot to start for Coach John Cooper, and responded with 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns. Then, of course, he earned his spot in the College Football Hall of Fame this week with a season for the ages, rushing for 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns and winning the '95 Heisman.

I also covered the much-anticipated Notre Dame at Ohio State game in 1995. In that game, George really made a name for himself and created serious Heisman buzz for himself with 207 rushing yards in a 45-26 win.

Not bad for a kid from Philadelphis whose only scholarship offer out of high school was from Lehigh. Instead, he spent a fifth year at Fork Union Military Academy before the likes of OSU and Penn State begin eyeing George.

George's story of redemption is why college football is so fascinating. It was heartbreak to Heisman.

Rarely, do we see such a story in sports, but when we do, they become so much more interesting.

Check out the clip of George's famous run against Illinois in 1995.

- Mark Podolski


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