NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman is now an analyst for Fox Sports. But before that, he was an All-Stater at Henryetta, signed with the University of Oklahoma and played two years at UCLA before being the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1989 NFL Draft.
A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Aikman led Dallas to three Super Bowl titles in four years. He was named MVP of Super Bowl XXVII.
The New York Mets offered Aikman a professional baseball contract out of high school, but he chose to play football at OU. After he suffered a season-ending broken ankle against Miami in 1985, the Sooners switched back to the wishbone offense, prompting his transfer to UCLA.
I love broadcasting. It’s really a great job for where I’m at now in my life. It allows me to continue to be part of something that I’m very passionate about. I love game day. There’s a lot of work during the week to get prepared. The tough part for me is being gone every weekend, having 10- and 11-year-old daughters, and missing some of their activities. But the positives are I get to take them to school every morning, pick them up and attend all their practices and stuff during the week.
Brevity is an important element (of being an analyst). I don’t talk down to fans. I don’t get into the X’s and O’s. Someone once told me, ‘Pretend you’re watching the game with an 8-year-old boy.’ But you also have to go beyond that because there’s coaches and housewives in that room with that 8-year-old boy, too. Playing the game, constructive criticism was important.
With guys like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick I think we’re going to see a lot more of those type quarterbacks. We’re seeing more and more of those players in college. There will always be a place in this league for the pocket passer but I think those guys are going to be harder to find.
My first love was baseball. From time to time my father would ask me, ‘Son what do you want to be when you grow up?’ From as far back as I can remember, 7 or 8 years old, I had only one answer: ‘I want to be a professional athlete.’ It wasn’t be a doctor one week or be a firefighter the next. I wasn’t sure what sport, but I was pretty sure it would be baseball.
Growing up, from my backyard (in Cerrito, Calif.), you could see the parachute jump at Knotts Berry Farm. It’s similar to Disneyland. I got a bicycle when I was very young. It might as well have been a car. It got me everywhere I wanted to go. I got to see buddies after school and do all kind of things quite honestly that my girls don’t get to do in Dallas. But everything revolved around sports.
If my family hadn’t moved to Henryetta I probably would have gone on and done something relatively well, but I don’t know if my career path would have been what it ultimately was. Those five years in Henryetta helped me realize a dream to become a professional athlete.
I thoroughly enjoyed my years in Henryetta. When I graduated (high school) Darren Lesley and I were the only two at the commencement ceremony that cried. The girls were slinging their hats, like a party, a big thrill.
A lot of positives for me came out of some times I thought were going to be setbacks for me. I’ve learned to embrace the difficult times a little bit better. Nobody, I don’t care who it is, doesn’t go through life without having some setbacks and having some bad things happen. A big part of going on and making your life what you want it to be is being able to persevere.
Whether you’re a parent or friend, something that you say to a kid might be the difference for maybe getting them going in the right direction to pursue a dream.
When I look back on it, I had two great years on campus at Oklahoma. Unfortunately football-wise I didn’t go there to run the option. I think everyone would agree that I shouldn’t have (been asked to run the option). But they were good years and they were good people. I still root for the Sooners. Barry Switzer, Merv Johnson, Charlie North, I could go down the list of a lot of coaches I still think a lot of and were icons in the professional world.
Jimmy Johnson had a tremendous impact on my career and our entire football team. He was the architect behind getting those talented players and building our roster. There were other people we couldn’t have done it without, but he certainly was a big part of that. He’s a good friend who is now living stress free. I admire him for that.
I had Barry Switzer on both sides (NFL and college). I think he was at a different stage of his life when he came to Dallas. When they tell the story of college football, Barry Switzer is awfully high on that list. I enjoyed my time playing for him. I loved his confidence, his willingness to tell the players, ‘You’re great.’ Most coaches don’t want to do that. He was the complete opposite. He went against all those things. He made it very clear that he wasn’t afraid to tell us how good we were.
The hardest-working guy we had was Michael Irvin. He was the heart and soul of our team. He was a great leader. He practiced every day like he was running routes in the Super Bowl.
What can you say about Emmitt Smith? To end up doing what he accomplished (becoming the all-time leading rusher), you have to play at a very high level. The fact you could rely on him to be in the backfield playing every week was a real credit to him. That’s not something you can say about very many guys at that position.
Deion (Sanders) came a little bit later but certainly brought some flamboyancy to our team. He was a great cover corner, the best I ever played against or was around. He was a real showman, there’s no doubt.
Winning three Super Bowls was a good time. I learned after the first one that I really needed to enjoy it as we went through those processes. With each game, I started to soak it in a little bit more and appreciate how hard it was and what it ultimately meant. When we won our last one in ’95 I didn’t think that would be the last time that we’d go back. And I would have never imagined that five years later I’d be retired from football. Things happened pretty quickly after that (’95 season). But it was a great run with great guys. In a lot of ways it made my post-playing career, doing things I’m doing now.
Fox Sports analyst, former Henryetta,
OU and Dallas Cowboys QB