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Playing for Keeps: Eddie George

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Retired NFL running back Eddie George is focused on a bigger game these days – building better communities, and helping others lead healthier lives.

Eddie George could have rested on his laurels as a star NFL running back. Instead, he earned an MBA and cofounded an innovative landscape architecture firm. From there, he could have kicked back and watched his business grow. Instead, he threw himself into his passion for helping both individuals and communities become their healthiest, strongest best.

Most recently that passion landed George, 36, a gig as a regular health consultant on The Dr. Oz Show, an opportunity that lets him reach millions with the kind of healthy-living wisdom he believes can make the biggest difference in the vitality of average Americans, and in their quality of life.

This commitment to living and giving his personal best — and to supporting others in doing the same — is a recurring theme in much of George’s work. His Nashville-based landscape architecture company, EDGE, for example, operates on the premise that thoughtfully designed environments can inspire healthier, more positive behaviors in the communities they serve.

“The vision of the firm is based on what we want to see in communities,” explains George. “There’s a social aspect to a healthy lifestyle, an economic aspect and an environmental aspect — all those things have to be in place to create and support healthy individuals.”

Since its creation in 2003, EDGE has designed site plans for community developments in several Ohio cities, as well as projects in New Orleans and Nashville. Last year, the firm was hired as part of the team developing Nashville’s new Museum of African American Art and Culture.

It’s with this same holistic perspective that George, in 2007, launched his mind-body-spirit fitness company, EGX Lifestyle. Since then, EGX has developed and promoted three high-profile health and fitness campaigns, including a Kids Fitness Challenge and an NFL Moms’ Fitness program. The latter is a 20-week challenge designed to help NFL moms get in shape and, in the process, inspire moms everywhere to start taking better care of themselves.

“It all started three years ago when my mom called saying she and some friends were trying to lose weight,” George recalls. “She asked me for a workout, but I thought it would be cool to make it a lifestyle challenge, and to split them into teams — AFC moms versus NFC moms — so they could encourage, push and support each other.” George had no intention of repeating the program annually, but when Dr. Oz and his staff contacted George and asked him and his wife, former R&B singer and Survivor contestant Tamara (Taj) Johnson, to continue the program and bring it to a wider audience, he acquiesced. And today, he’s glad he did. “It’s inspiring to see the changes these women are making, and what they’re sticking with,” he says.

Supporting positive change is a near constant in George’s otherwise diverse array of projects: “Through landscape architecture, working out with EGX or being an entertainer — in getting to know who I am, in learning my strengths and figuring out what I’m here to do — I try to develop healthy people in healthy places,” George says.

George has been honing his trademark focus and determination for a long time. After a Heisman-winning stint at Ohio State, he was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1996. George was named Rookie of the Year and was selected to four Pro Bowl squads during his nine-year professional career. He is only the second NFL running back in history to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start.

George credits that durability to mind and matter. “The spirit within me is a lot stronger than my physical being, so I was able to go out there and play even when I was hurt,” he explains. “But it was also because of the work I did. My body was my craft, and I took care of it through proper nutrition, training, massage and yoga.”

At 6-foot-3 and a muscular 235 pounds, George still appears game ready, but today he’s in a different, more balanced place. After retiring from football, says George, “I had to deprogram my body, change my perspective. I sought out energy healers. I got more into stretching and Kundalini yoga.”

Over time, his sense of purpose has shifted, too. “I’ve always loved working out. But now, it’s about something deeper; I have to live a longer life for my kids,” says George, who lives in Nashville with Taj and their son, Eriq, 5. (He has another son, Jaire, 13, from a previous relationship.) ”These days, working out is my meditation. Whatever workout I’m doing, I seek to go into the uncomfortable places. The goal is to find comfort in the uncomfortable.”

But George’s biggest goal of all, it seems, is to give his very best to the world around him — one winning play at time.

Go behind the scenes at our cover shoot with Eddie George at experiencelife.com/videos.

Jen Sinkler is Experience Life’s senior fitness editor. She blogs at blogs.experiencelife.com/survival-of-the-fittest.

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