NASHVILLE – “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!”
Eddie George first remembers hearing fans chant his name back in 1992. He was a running back at Ohio State then, and his uncle got those around him to shout his nephew's name in unison in a game at Syracuse, when George scored three touchdowns.
Fast-forward to Nashville, near the end of the same decade.
That’s when George said it really hit him. Titans fans loved him, and he felt it like he’d never felt it before.
“The Eddie chant was in full effect once we became the Titans, and it got crazy,” George said on Wednesday night. “And to hear it, it is a euphoria that words can’t describe. You hear the appreciation and the love from the fans, and it is almost embarrassing, but you want them to keep going. To have the fans chant your name like that in unison, 70,000 fans, that is pretty powerful stuff. It is overwhelming actually. And it’s something I’ll never forget as long as I live.”
On Sunday, the former Titans running back will return to Nissan Stadium, and he’s certain to hear it again.
George’s No. 27 jersey, along with Steve McNair’s No.9 jersey, will be retired in a ceremony during halftime of the team’s home opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
George, now 45, said he always felt appreciated during his playing days with the Titans, and he’s feeling it again leading up to Sunday.
“This whole week has been one that has been full of gratitude, love and appreciation,” George said. “It is going back in time, thinking of all the great times and memories. And I am going to soak it all in.
“I told myself this week I'm going to do one simple thing: Smell the roses. Take in all the details of the day. I am not going to take pictures. I am going to put it in the imprints of my mind, and the feeling of it, of the fans chanting my name, or the love. I just want to feel the appreciation.”
A first-round pick by the Titans in 1996, George made the No. 27 legendary in Tennessee.
George is the Titans/Oilers record holder for career rushing yards (10,009), ahead of Hall of Famer Earl Campbell (9,407). He finished his career with 10,441 yards.
During his playing days in Tennessee (1996-2003), George never missed a game – a span of 128 starts. He was a 1,000-yard rusher seven times, and a four-time Pro Bowler. George racked up 36 100-yard games, and the Titans recorded a 30-6 record in those games.
George said he’s looking forward to being joined by many of his teammates and coaches on Sunday.
“I owe a lot of gratitude to Amy Adams Strunk because she didn’t have to do this,” George said of the Titans controlling owner. “Oftentimes, retired players, once we are done playing we don’t feel appreciated enough, or we don’t feel like we’re a part of a family, like we’re left off in the pasture just to disappear and fade away.
“For her to reach out and make us feel appreciated and send a tremendous message about what we meant to the organization, it means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to Steve's family. It makes you feel like you are all family. I truly am overwhelmed by the support and the love.”
Ever since Amy Adams Strunk announced the team’s plans to retire the jersey of the team’s legends, George said the response has been incredible. He’s been stopped in the streets all over the city and congratulated, he said.
During his playing days, George, like McNair, was a fan favorite.
He was also one of the NFL’s best running backs of his era.
George’s finest season came in 2000, when he rushed for 1,509 yards, scored 16 total touchdowns, and had six 100-yard performances for the 13-3 Titans. Playing alongside McNair, George helped the Titans reach the playoffs four times in his eight years in Nashville, including a Super Bowl, and two AFC title games. George went over 1,300 yards in a season four times, and he racked up 12,668 all-purpose yards in his career.
There are times, George admits, he still misses the game.
“There are days when I don’t think about it at all,” he said. “But then there are days when you are at a game, that’s when I feel it most, when I hear the National Anthem or the roar of the crowd. All of those emotions still come up in me. I enjoyed it so much.”
Titans Online looks back at franchise legends Eddie George and Steve McNair in Super Bowl XXXIV. (AP Photos)
On Sunday, George expects those emotions to come flooding back again.
When he hears the roar of the crowd, and when he hears fans chant his name, he’ll go back in time.
The only thing that could make it better would be if his buddy, Steve McNair, could share it with him.
On Sunday, McNair's widow, Mechelle, will return to Nissan Stadium with the couple's two sons, Tyler and Trent, along with Steve's mother, his brothers, and a big group of family members and friends from Mississippi.
“But you know what? Steve will be there, I know he will be,” George said. “And this is a great way for his boys to see their father in the light that we all saw him, and that was as the ultimate team player, a great leader, a great warrior, a man who was loved by the people not just because of the way he played, but also because of the way he cared for others in the community.
“It will be good for them to see now, how time has moved on but how their father is still beloved in the city and really around the world. I would love for Steve to see all this in the physical presence, but I am one to believe in the supernatural, and I know that Steve is smiling down on us and he is orchestrating this the way he orchestrated the game-winning drives. That magic still exists and we just have to close our eyes for a moment and allow ourselves to feel his presence, because he’s there. And I know he’ll be there right beside me on Sunday.”
A first-round pick (14th overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1996 NFL Draft, Eddie George became only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards, while never missing a start, as Tennessee's starter through 2003. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
BE A PART OF HISTORY
This Sunday, September 15 will be a special day as the Titans retire QB Steve McNair’s No. 9 jersey and RB Eddie George’s No. 27 jersey during halftime of the team's home opener vs the Indianapolis Colts.
Don't miss this amazing day in franchise history!