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Saturday, August 10, 1996

Agent's Persuasion Kept Heisman Winner's Mother Off Doomed Airliner

By Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Oilers' signing of Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George may have saved the life of his mother, Donna.

The TWA flight attendant was scheduled to work Flight 800 from New York to Paris on July 17 and return two days later.

But her son's insistent agent, Lamont Smith, persuaded her to change her schedule so she could go to San Antonio on July 19 for one of the most important days of her son's life.

"Donna said she had to work, that she didn't know if she could take off. But I was persistent because it was a monumental event for both of them," Smith said. "They were already spiritual people, and they say the Lord works in mysterious ways. If he worked through me in this instance, I couldn't be happier about it."

George was the Oilers' No. 1 draft choice from Ohio State, and was about to agree to a five-year contract worth almost $6.9 million, including a $2.9 million signing bonus.

Smith insisted that Donna George be part of the signing and subsequent news conference.

"Lamont begged her not to go because he wanted her to come to San Antonio, and so did I," Eddie George said quietly as he reflected on the days before and after 230 passengers and crew died in the crash. "I thank God every day she didn't get on that plane. I know we've been blessed, and my prayers go out to the families of those who died."

Donna George, who lives in Philadelphia, said is still stunned by her near-miss.

"I had quite a few friends killed in the crash," she told the Houston Chronicle in Friday editions. "It's devastating to me that lives were lost. I'm still going through a healing process trying to come to grips with what happened."

She said she will never forget the moment she realized it was her flight that crashed.

"I quickly turned on CNN and saw it was the flight I had been scheduled for, and I just went numb," she said. "I was so shocked, I couldn't even cry at first."


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