Awards & Events

Bo Eason Encourages Youngstown to Bring Its ‘A-Game’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Bo Eason moved to New York City in 1992 to pursue a career on stage, he asked every person in his class “who is the best stage performer,” he said.

The answer from his classmates was “Al Pacino,” he told the more than 600 attendees during his motivational lecture at the DeYor Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening. The former all-pro safety with the Houston Oilers, now playwright, motivational speaker and author, recalled he then asked his classmates where he could find Pacino, but they didn’t know where to begin, Eason said.

“If he’s the best I got to talk to him,” he said. “Only he can help me. If he’s the best I want his mantle.”

Within three or four days, Eason landed himself at Pacino’s house, he said. There was snow on the ground that day and when he was walking up to the house, Pacino came out and welcomed Eason inside already knowing why he was there, he said.

“We played pool for three hours and he goes, ‘I know why you’re here, let me break it down for you,’ ” Eason said. “He broke down my next 15 years in three hours. He told me the same principles that it took to be the best safety is exactly what it’s going to take to be the best on these boards up here,” he said, pointing to the stage at the DeYor.

When he was 9 years old, Eason made a plan to become the best free safety in the NFL. He was rejected by his high school team and 350 college football programs, but that didn’t stop him from chasing the dream.

Eason was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1984 and continued his football career for the San Francisco 49ers. When his football career ended, being the best stage performer was something Eason aspired to. After receiving the guidance from Pacino, Eason wrote and acted in his one-man play “Runt of the Litter” that The New York Times called “one of the most powerful plays in the last decade,” which ran off Broadway and toured in 50 cities.

“People either got on my side and helped me or they didn’t,” Eason said. “That happened in football, that happened in writing the play because you can imagine coming from a professional athlete to being a playwright. All my teammates were supportive but giggling. Once I did it, they loved it.”

Eason speaks to 600-plus attendees at the DeYor Performing Arts Center.

Eason didn’t stop at writing the play or his new book “There’s No Plan B For Your A-Game.” He now uses his experiences to teach others how to achieve their dreams and transform their lives. He is now one of the most in-demand motivational speakers and trainers in the world, with numerous Fortune 500 company clients, who inspires audiences in the tens of thousands each year, including Youngstown this year.

Even though this was Eason’s first time in Youngstown, he almost feels like he is from here, he said.

“Ohio has always been really good to me,” Eason said. “When I was on my 50-city tour, Ohio was the state I was in the most, but we weren’t here in Youngstown. I didn’t know Greg [Smith] when I was doing the play way back when, so it was great for my wife and Greg to get together and go, ‘Hey, this will be a great stop.’ ”

Greg Smith, chairman of Compco Industries, Columbiana, said he’s been wanting to bring Eason to Youngstown since 2011.

“First I wanted to bring him to do his play, but we couldn’t get that hooked up,” Smith said. “Then I went and worked with Bo for several years and got to know him well, and then his book came out.”

After Smith, Eason’s wife and Jim Tressel, Youngstown State University president, teamed up, the free event at DeYor came into the picture, Smith said. He said Tressel loved the idea and he did not want to charge people to attend.

“We handed out 600 tickets. They’re all gone,” Smith said. “We have coupled Youngstown with mediocrity, with ‘good enough,’ and it’s about time we made the decision that doesn’t work anymore.

“We are entitled to be the best. Why can’t we have the best hospital, the best university? Why can’t we be the best city in the freaking United States? Why not?” Smith continued. “It’s a decision and then it’s the work. Once you’ve made that decision, all your choices are in front of you.”

When people want to be the best, it’s a straight shot, Smith said. Mediocrity is harder because people have more problems, they’re not as focused and they go in different directions, he added.

“It’s wonderful to have an auditorium full of people that believe, people that believe in the Valley, people that believe in becoming the best they can possibly be,” Tressel said. “I remember about 33 years ago coming to Youngstown and sitting in a room not quite this big with about 100 guys, a dozen coaches and talking about the fact that we are going to become a national champion.”

Eason came up with a four-step process to be on the pathway to the best: declaration, preparation, acceleration and domination. People should decide what they want to achieve, learn how they can make it happen, find stamina to reach the goal and to not take others with them, he said.

“I’ve done this four times in my life,” he said. “I’m telling you, it can be done and I’ve done some diverse stuff like being a safety and being a playwright. You can’t get any further apart than that.”

Pictured: Bo Eason, former Houston Oilers all-pro safety, Broadway playwright and excellence coach released his book, “There’s No Plan B for Your A-Game,” in September.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.