PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Eddie George was too busy charging through defenses as an NFL running back to stop and inspect the stadium turf. Now retired, he's turning a critical eye to home building and design as a judge on a new reality television show.
George joins designer Nate Berkus and interior decorator Monica Pedersen on "American Dream Builders" debuting March 23 on NBC.
For George, the show is a chance to make use of his college degree, having majored in landscape architecture at Ohio State University, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1995. He jokes that he had no one to discuss his passion with during his nine-year career playing for the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys.
"This opportunity presented itself for me not only to show the talents of a landscape architect, but also to be creative," he says.
After graduating, George opened The Edge Group, a planning and architecture firm with offices in Columbus, Ohio and Nashville, Tenn. He later earned an MBA from Northwestern University.
Berkus said he had never heard of George before the show because he's not a football fan. Berkus sometimes climbed on the shoulders of George, who is 6-foot-3, to better inspect crown molding in homes they judged.
"You can make a room look fabulous, but if you are in there for about five minutes and you notice all of the small things that are wrong, it can go south really fast," George says. "One of the things that I've learned on this show is how to truly go into a space and gauge it for what it is and how much thoughtfulness has gone into it and how the details really speak volumes down to the knobs that you use on the drawers or the counters."
The "American Dream Builders" show features 12 contestants divided into two teams to redesign and renovate a home inside and out in a matter of days. Each week, one contestant is eliminated until two reach the finale, where they renovate two Southern California homes while competing for a cash prize. At-home viewers can go online to enter a contest in which the show's winner will renovate their home.
"It's interesting to see the contestants react to Eddie's judgment week after week because, if they don't get the details right, he notices every time," Berkus says.
George says he's learned new lingo such as subway tile, back splash and chinoiserie (a style of art that reflects Chinese motifs).
Pedersen said George's realistic perspective contrasted sharply with the show's high-end designers who sometimes got carried away.
"They like really pristine, clean lines and these artistic-looking rooms," George says. "I'm like, 'Is it comfortable? Can you sit here comfortably and watch television and have a conversation?' And nine times out of 10, it's no."
Pedersen added, "If Eddie can't watch football wherever they put the sofa, he wants to send them home."
George says working on the show made him realize his own home could use a makeover.
"I'm ready to move out of my house and start from scratch," he says.