According to The New York Times, Eddie George was in his dressing room at the Ambassador Theater on Tuesday night, a Heisman Trophy winner and former star N.F.L. running back about to step onstage for his Broadway debut in “Chicago.”
The setting was new, the emotions familiar.
“Man, it felt like game time,” he said in an interview the next day. “This is what you live for — like when you leave the tunnel and run onto the field.”
He was no longer trying to elude defenders bent on dragging him down. Instead, as the charming lawyer Billy Flynn, he entered through a fluttering circle of pink ostrich feathers, wearing a tuxedo and white carnation, and singing: “I don’t care about expensive things/Cashmere coats, diamond rings/Don’t mean a thing/All I care about is love.”
He had never sung professionally, although his wife, Tamara Johnson-George, is part of the R&B group SWV. He had not danced except for childhood ballet lessons that he said served him well in football. Mr. George, 42, sneaked a few gridiron moves into one number, stretching out his right arm in the classic Heisman Trophy pose.
“You saw that, did you?” he said, pleased that his personal touches had not gone unnoticed.
During the show’s 19-year run, Mr. George is the latest in a lengthy list of actors and celebrities to play Billy Flynn, the attention-grabbing attorney hired to defend the murderous Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. Among his predecessors: James Naughton, Taye Diggs and the Olympic figure skater Elvis Stojko.
“We felt we needed someone to draw on a different demographic,” said Barry Weissler, who produced the show with his wife, Fran. “It was time to get a sports figure to reach the audience that would be interested in seeing him.”
Acting is one of several careers Mr. George has taken on since retiring from football in 2004. He is also a financial adviser and teaches the business of sports at Ohio State University, his alma mater.