By Lenny Moon
FORMER HOUSTON OILER STARS BUBBA MCDOWELL, EDDIE ROBINSON JR AND EDDIE GEORGE NOW LEAD PRAIRIE VIEW, ALABAMA STATE & TENNESSEE STATE FOOTBALL PROGRAMS
Three former Houston Oilers stars have gone on to launch collegiate football coaching careers as head coaches at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Two of these former Columbia blue clad stars were actually teammates while the team was still in Houston while two were teammates in both H-Town and Nashville after the team relocated. The three newly inserted HBCU head coaches are Bubba McDowell at Prairie View A&M (Oilers-1989-94, ’89 Draft-3rd Rd), Eddie Robinson Jr at his alma mater Alabama State (Oilers-1992-95/ Tenn-1998-01, ’92 Draft-2nd Rd), and Eddie George at Tennessee State (Oilers/ Tennessee-1996-03, ’96 Draft-1st Rd). McDowell and Robinson Jr are rookie collegiate head coaches while George has embarked on his second season as a first-time head football coach.
Personally, I had the pleasure of covering the Oilers during their respective Houston stints and crossed paths with McDowell while broadcasting athletics on “the hill” while he was an assistant at PVAMU. A product of the University of Miami, “B-Mac” was a hard-hitting safety for Houston who earned a starting slot on some very good Oiler teams as a pro. The 1992 Houston Oilers team was amongst the best post-AFL team the city had witnessed (nine Pro Bowl selections). As history recorded, the Oilers lost 41-38 to the Buffalo Bills on January 4, 1993 in overtime after relinquishing a 32-point lead at Rich Stadium in Buffalo. Certainly a highlight for the road team that day was McDowell’s pick-six, taking it to the house from 58 yards out. Backup signal caller Frank Reich (now head coach with the Indianapolis Colts) subbed for injured Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly and led his team to the historic comeback victory. Oilers Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon threw for 371 yds and 4 TDs in defeat. McDowell was victorious in his coaching debut as his PVAMU Panthers defeated rival Texas Southern (see trophy photo above) on “the hill” at Prairie View in the recent Labor Day Classic.
Very early in the sports broadcasting career of yours truly (while voicing Texas Southern athletics), Black College Football power Alabama State marched into H-Town to take on conference foe TSU. This was the 1991 gridiron campaign that would see the Hornets eventually snare the National Championship title. Spearheading that impressive contingent was Academic and football All-American Eddie Robinson Jr, senior linebacker from New Orleans. That game turned out to be the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season by ASU (11-0-1) vs the TSU encounter when it ended with a low scoring tied score. Robinson Jr (no known relation to Grambling State legendary head coach that shared his namesake) would come back to Houston when drafted by the Oilers in the 2nd round of the 1992 NFL Draft.
As someone was once quoted “You only get one shot to make a first impression” , well E-Rob definitely made his count. During his initial couple of months or so in town, he accepted an invitation to come over to the studio for an interview. After covering all of the football topics, we gravitated away from the gridiron discussions and recalibrated to his being a citizen of Montgomery, Al (home base of ASU) and the civil rights history that’s associated with that community. Without hesitation, it was apparent that he was well versed with the legacy of Rosa Parks from the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” era to Dr Martin L. King Jr who was pastor of Dexter Ave Baptist Church and of course leader of the aforementioned boycott. The Academic All-American displayed why his collegiate status was “student-athlete”. As a rookie collegiate coach, Robinson led his Alabama State team to victory over Howard University in his debut on ESPN in the annual “SWAC vs MEAC Challenge”.
When the Houston Oilers drafted 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George in the 1st round of the 1996 NFL Draft (from Ohio State), the professional football team that had been a staple of the community for 35 years was a “lame duck” organization having committed to relocate to Tennessee the following season. Attendance suffered greatly and so did the quality of play in George’s only season as a Houston Oiler. Eddie would go on to an illustrious career in Tennessee (initially known as the Tennessee Oilers and later Tennessee Titans), culminating in their Super Bowl XXXIV loss to the St Louis Rams 23-16. Another HBCU legend that spearheaded that era of Titans football was Steve “Air” McNair from Alcorn State. Eddie was spectacular for Tennessee, rushing for over 1,000 yards in seven of this eight seasons in Houston/Nashville and fell just shy of a grand in the other (939 yds).
George took over the reigns of Tennessee State’ s football program last season when he compiled a respectable 5-6, 3-3 in his rookie campaign. Eddie seemingly has found a comfort zone as a collegiate coach, being afforded the opportunity to operate in the same city where he earned so much acclaim as a 4-time All-Pro running back. At the time of his departure from the Titans, he held a whopping 28 franchise records.