American football player
Star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for more than a decade, Troy Aikman led "America's team" to three Super Bowl victories before the toll of multiple injuries finally took him out of the game. In April 2001, rather than risk a potentially disabling injury, Aikman at the age of thirty-four left professional football to launch a new career as a sports broadcaster. Although he expressed regret at leaving the game that had been his the focus of his life for more than half his years, Aikman told the Associated Press (AP): "I know it's the right thing for me because of my health, concussions, the back problems I've had. It took its toll." He recalled fondly being linked with wide receiver Michael Irvin and running back Emmitt Smith
as one of "The Triplets." Of their association, Smith said, "All three of us stepped up. We all pushed one another. He [Aikman] probably was the laid-back one, but he was the stubborn one, too. His stubbornness was really his way of showing that losing was not an option."
Born in West Covina, California
He was born Troy Kenneth Aikman in West Covina, California, on November 21, 1966. The youngest of the three children of Ken and Charlyn Aikman, he grew up in Cerritos, a suburb of Los Angeles. Because of congenital problems with his feet, he was forced to wear casts up to his knees until he was fourteen months old. His foot problems as an infant, however, did nothing to slow Aikman's development as an athlete. As a boy, he was most interested in baseball. When Troy was twelve, the Aikmans moved to a farm near Henryetta, Oklahoma, and he soon found himself focusing less on baseball and more on football, which was particularly popular in the Sooner State. Aikman quarterbacked his Henryetta High School football team, as a junior leading the Fighting Hens to their first state playoffs in thirty years and to a 6-4 record in his senior year. Although Henryetta never became a football power during his years there, Aikman managed to earn all-state honors his senior year, and word filtered out about his brilliance on the gridiron. As a result, he was heavily recruited by some of the top colleges in the country. Impressed by its football coach, Barry Switzer, Aikman finally decided on the University of Oklahoma.
As impressed as he had been with Switzer as a person, Aikman found that the Oklahoma coach's strategy made little use of his quarterbacking skills. He soon realized that Switzer didn't plan to alter his offensive strategy to accommodate him. Aikman later told Sports Illustrated : "He changed… [the offense] a little bit, but the only real difference when I played was that we threw the ball 12 times a game instead of seven." A crushing lost to archrival Kansas further eroded Aikman's confidence. After a disappointing freshman season, Aikman returned for his sophomore year and led the Sooners to victory in their first three games of the season, only to have his ankle broken in the team's face-off with the University of Miami. Switzer tapped Jamelle Holloway as the new starting quarterback, and Aikman despaired of regaining the job. In the end, he decided to transfer to UCLA, where he was confident he would get more of an opportunity to play. He was forced to sit out his first season at UCLA after the transfer but won the starting quarterback job in 1987, finishing his debut season with the team as the second highest rated college passer in the country. Aikman led UCLA to records of 10-2 in both his junior and senior years, winning All-American honors and finishing his college career as the third-ranked passer in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history.
|1966||Born November 21, in West Covina, California|
|1978||Moves with family to farm outside Henryetta, Oklahoma|
|1984||Enrolls at University of Oklahoma|
|1987||Transfers to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)|
|1989||Graduates from UCLA|
|1989||Signed to biggest contract in NFL history by Dallas Cowboys|
|2001||Retired from professional football|
|2001||Begins work as a sports broadcaster for FOX Sports|
Drafted by Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys, who had fallen on hard times in the late 1980s, made no secret of the fact that they wanted to tap Aikman in the 1989 NFL draft. Dallas drafted Aikman first overall in the draft. In his first year with the Cowboys, Aikman found himself in competition with Steve Walsh, another rookie, for the job of starting quarterback. Although Aikman eventually won the job, the Cowboys suffered through a disastrous season, ending with a record of 1-15. In 1990, things improved, but only slightly. The Cowboys improved their record to 7-9. However, Aikman performed well, as he did again in 1991, leading the Cowboys to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in the regular season. The quarterback was injured in the twelfth game of the regular season and rode the bench for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. Aikman's brilliance on the gridiron was not to be denied in 1992. With a pass-completion rate of sixty-four percent, he threw for 3,445 yards and twenty-three touchdowns, leading the Cowboys to the NFC Championship. Facing off against the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, Aikman led Dallas to a one-sided 52-17 victory.
The Cowboys got off to a shaky start in 1993, losing the first two games of the season. But the team bounced back to finish the year with a 12-4 record and making it into the playoffs once again. With a pass-completion rate of sixty-nine percent, Aikman led the Cowboys to the NFC East Division championship. Although Aikman was injured in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, he was back in action for the Super Bowl, which featured a rematch with the Bills. Once again, Dallas prevailed, winning the NFL Championship with a 30-13 victory over Buffalo.
Dreams of 'Three-Peat' Dashed
The Cowboys' dreams of a Super Bowl "three-peat" were dashed in 1994. Although the team played once again to a 12-4 record, the Cowboys fell to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Determined to return to the Super Bowl, the Cowboys battled their way to a 12-4 record again in 1995. After defeating the Green Bay Packers 38-27 in the NFC Championship Game, the Cowboys found themselves facing off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. Each team had won four previous Super Bowls, and the winner of Super Bowl XXX would become the winningest team in the history of the big game. Aikman became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to three Super Bowl victories before the age of thirty as the Cowboys battled to a 27-17 win over the Steelers.
Injury and growing disenchantment with Cowboys coach Switzer took its toll on Aikman in 1996. He nevertheless turned in an impressive performance for the season with a pass-completion rate of 63.7 percent and total passing yardage of 3,126. The Cowboys made it into the playoffs but lost their second-round game to the Carolina Panthers, 26-17. Things got worse for the Cowboys in 1997. The team ended the season with a losing 6-10 record, and Aikman's pass-completion rate fell to 56.4 percent. In 1998, Aikman missed five of the Cowboys' regular season games and threw for only 2,330 yards and five touchdowns. He was also successfully treated for skin cancer during the year. The Cowboys made it into the playoffs once again but lost their first-round game to the Arizona Cardinals. This scenario was repeated in 1999 when the Cowboys lost their first-round game in the playoffs to the Minnesota Vikings.
Retires from Pro Football
In April 2001, shortly after being waived by the Cowboys, Aikman announced his retirement from professional football. In the end, it was concern over a potentially disabling injury that forced him from the game. In his last twenty starts with the Cowboys, through the end of the 2000 season, Aikman had suffered four concussions. He told the AP: "I wanted to play. I just can't do that any-more. I think when all things are considered, it was the right thing for me and my family."
|DAL: Dallas Cowboys.|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1982-83||Named to Oklahoma All-State High School Football Team|
|1987||Led UCLA Bruins to Aloha Bowl victory over Florida Gators|
|1988||Named quarterback on all college All-American teams|
|1993||Led Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl victory over Buffalo Bills|
|1993||Named Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player|
|1994||Led Cowboys to Super Bowl victory over Bills|
|1996||Led Cowboys to Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1997||Named NFL Man of the Year by True Value|
Aikman, who in April 2000 married former Cowboys public relations staffer Rhonda Worthey, lives with his wife in Plano, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He's traded his helmet for a microphone and now works as a member of the FOX Sports broadcasting team. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson summed up Aikman's brilliant career as well as anyone when he told the Dallas Morning News : "He's the greatest big-game quarterback you could find. It's like he trained his whole life to perform in the spotlight."
Address: Troy Aikman, c/o Fox Sports West, 10000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067-7002. Phone: (310)286-3800.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY AIKMAN:
(With Greg Brown) Things Change, Taylor Publishing, 1995.
Related Biography: Coach Jimmy Johnson
One of only five NFL head coaches to lead a team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, Jimmy Johnson came to the Dallas Cowboys the same year as Aikman and exerted a profound influence on the future direction of the quarterback's career. It was Johnson and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who rebuilt the Cowboys offensive line around the talent of Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin, who came to be known as "The Triplets."
Rarely has a coach had to assume a new post under more daunting circumstances than Johnson experienced in 1989, when Jones named his old college roommate to succeed the legendary Tom Landry as coach of the Cowboys. Fans, stunned and angry by the abrupt removal of Landry, initially gave Johnson the coldest reception imaginable. But Johnson proved himself, coaching the Cowboys to two consecutive Super Bowl victories in his four years at the helm of the team.
He was born James Craig Johnson in Port Arthur, Texas, on July 16, 1943. Although he was not particularly big or strong, Johnson proved himself a competitive scrapper, winning all-state football honors in high school and a football scholarship to the University of Arkansas. He began his coaching career as a defensive line coach at Louisiana Tech and worked at a number of high schools and colleges in the region before landing the head coaching job at Oklahoma State. During his four years at Oklahoma State, Johnson twice coached his team to bowl games. From Oklahoma State, Johnson moved to head coach at the University of Miami, which he guided to a phenomenal 52-9 record over four seasons.
Aikman: Mind, Body, and Soul, Benchmark Press, 1998. (With Brian Jensen) Where Have All Our Cowboys Gone? Taylor Publishing, 2001.
"Jimmy Johnson." Newsmakers 1993, Issue 4. Detroit: Gale Group, 1993.
"Troy Aikman." Newsmakers 1994, Issue 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.
"Troy Aikman." Sports Stars, Series 1-4. U•X•L, 1994-1998.
Aron, Jaime. "Dallas QB Troy Aikman Retires." Associated Press (April 10, 2001).
"Aikman, Troy K." HickokSports.com. http://www.hickoksports.com/biograph/aikmantr.shtml (December 21, 2002).
"Troy Aikman Biography." http://wv.essortment.com/troyaikmanbiog_rmho.htm (December 21, 2002).
"Troy Aikman, Quarterback." Pro-Football-Reference.com. http://www.football-reference.com/players/AikmTr00.htm (December 17, 2002).
Sketch by Don Amerman