A Tribute To Troy Aikman Part I: The Beginnning of Greatness

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Troy AikmanOn the twenty-first day of November in 1966, Troy Kenneth Aikman was born as the Dallas Cowboys prepared for their November 24th home game in Dallas Texas against the Cleveland Browns. Little did they know a little over 1400 miles away in West Covina CA, the next savior of their franchise was being born.

Troy Aikman is the youngest born and only son to Kenneth and Charlyn Aikman.The Aikman's As a baby, they noticed Troy’s legs bowed below his knees and his toes curled under his feet. The Aikman’s took Troy to see Dr. McColl, who was also a former Chicago Bear; he diagnosed Troy with a mild case of clubbed feet. Troy Aikman spent the first year of his life wearing casts on his legs that had to be changed every two weeks. He actually learned to walk while in the casts. Between the ages of one and three, Troy had to wear special shoes all day and night, and his heels were strapped together when he slept. But none of that slowed down Troy: he spent his childhood fishing, hunting, playing sports with his friends, and riding his bike all over Cerritos, CA.

Troy Aikman learned sportsmanship at a very young age from his mother. During a Tee Ball game, the coach moved a kid from the outfield to second base. Not agreeing with the coaches decision, Troy yelled, “Don’t put him there. He’s no good.” Charlyn Aikman glared at her son and waited patiently for the game to be over. After the game, she grabbed Troy by the shirt and took him to the car. She told him if he ever did that again, she would pull him off the field and that would be the end of sports for him.

Thank goodness, it never happened again. Troy Aikman always wanted to play professional baseball at either shortstop or pitcher. He dreamed of going to USC and then moving on to the majors. He spent time in his bedroom practicing his autograph just to be ready for when someone asked for it. Although he dreamed of the major leagues, Troy’s enjoyment of football started to grow. His favorite team, unbelievably, was the Dallas Cowboys. Roger Staubach was his favorite player.

The Start of it All

In the summer of 1979, Troy Aikman left the California sunshine at the age of 12. They moved to a ranch complete with animals about seven miles out of Henryetta OK. Troy Aikman hated moving to the ranch and began to resent his parents. His least favorite thing to do was feeding slop to the pigs. This kind of lifestyle was foreign to him. Troy was not thinking about football when he got to Henryetta. His father asked if he was going to try out for the team. You see, football is Kenneth’s favorite sport. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Troy Aikman tried out for his junior high team. The coaches did not put him in a position he really wanted to play. He did not want to play quarterback because he played the position in peewee. Troy really wanted to quit but his father advised him:

“Just keep trying. Don”t give up so easily and not so quickly.”

The Dallas Cowboys and their fans can be thankful he took his father’s advice. Sticking with football, Troy Aikman started his first varsity game as a 14-year-old sophomore. They won the game and the Henryetta High School Fighting Hens (now known as the Knights as of 1989) finished the season 4-6. The next year the Fighting Hens finished 2-8, but were in the state playoffs for the first time in 30 years. Troy Aikman led them to a record of 6-4 in his senior year and earned all-state honors. His coach gave him the nickname ‘The Iceman’. He earned the name by showing icy confidence even in high school.  When he was not showing his skills on the gridiron, Troy Aikman was an all-state baseball player. He played shortstop and pitcher.

Henryetta High School is not a football powerhouse. However, the word of Troy Aikman’s athletic ability and brilliance on the field sparked interest from Division I football programs: Jimmy Johnson from the University of Miami and Barry Switzer from the University of Oklahoma both went ‘all in’ to try to bring Troy to their respective programs. In the background, the New York Mets were very interested in drafting him.

Growing up, Troy Aikman dreamed of playing professional baseball. The New York Mets asked what it would take for Troy to skip college and play for them. His response was, “more than Darryl Strawberry“. Their response was simply, “Good luck at Oklahoma!” Making the choice to play football instead of following his dream was big for Troy Aikman. He chose to enroll at the University of Oklahoma. It was close to home and the head coach impressed him.

Oklahoma, led by their head coach Barry Switzer, played the Wishbone offensive set. Barry did not plan to alter his offensive strategy to accommodate Troy. Troy Aikman said in an interview for Sports Illustrated,

“The only real difference was we throw the ball 12 times a game instead of 7.”  Aikman Oklahoma

As a sophomore, he became the starter for the Sooners.  Troy was off with a shot. The Sooners won their first three games of the season against The University of Minnesota (13-7), Kansas State University (41-6) and the University of Texas in the Red River Rivalry game (14-7).

The stage was set for a showdown against Vinny Testaverde and the University of Miami Hurricanes coached by Jimmy Johnson. The game had the beginnings of being one of Troy Aikman’s greatest games. With 14:16 left in the second quarter and trailing 14-7, Troy Aikman drove the Oklahoma Sooners offense down to the Miami Hurricanes 17 yard line. Facing 3rd and 10, Troy dropped back to pass as Jerome Brown broke free: he sacked Troy and broke his ankle in the process. Troy Aikman was lost for the rest of the 1985 season. It would also be the last game he would play as an Oklahoma Sooner.

Barry Switzer had no choice but to switch the offense back to the wishbone under freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway. The Oklahoma Sooners would go on to win the 1985 NCAA National Title, which all but cemented Jamelle as the starting quarterback. It was at this time Troy Aikman made the decision to leave the University of Oklahoma.

Barry Switzer, knowing Troy Aikman would waste away at Oklahoma, engineered the transfer of Troy to UCLA. He figured UCLA’s style of offense under Terry Donahue was better suited for Troy’s skill set. Barry Switzer could have not been more correct. The California kid had returned home. Troy Aikman had to sit out one year due to NCAA transfer rules. Troy officially took the field as a UCLA Bruin for the 1987 season and oh what a season it was. The Bruins finished the season 10-2 with the final touch being the 20-16 victory over the University of Florida Gators in the Aloha Bowl. Named the PAC-10 Player of the Year, Troy Aikman completed 178 of 273 passes for 2527 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. His Passer Rating of 157.64 was among the best in the nation. Everyone was eager to see what the next season held for the Troy Aikman lead UCLA Bruins.

They were not disappointed. Troy lead the 1988 Bruins to another 10-2 season. AikmanHe finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was a Consensus All-American. In addition, Troy Aikman took home the Davey O’Brian Award as the nation’s best collegiate quarterback of the 1988 season. The icing on the cake was the trip to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Texas. He completed 19 of 27 pass for 172 yards and a touchdown in the 17-3 victory. He finished his collegiate career as the 3rd ranked passer in NCAA history at that time. It was no secret Tom Landry was interested in Troy Aikman. He watched Troy during the UCLA Bruins workouts at Texas Stadium. The Dallas media were going crazy pushing the thought of Troy Aikman being the next Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

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  • Football Mensa

    Aikman was the perfect qb for our offense at the time. As a regular guy he isn’t the nicest guy in the world. He loathes having to interact with fans. I do think he is one of the best analyst on the tube right now.

  • great job on the article kevin! I am anxious to see the next part.

  • MichaelValentino

    I wonder how things would’ve turned out had Aikman stayed healthy at OU. Looking back, it does seem that the injury in the Miami game was a good thing. Troy ended up at UCLA and he got to show the nation his accuracy and strong arm. I remember watching him in that Cotton Bowl. I knew he was going to be the Cowboys’ next QB.  He was very efficient in that game. Nothing fancy. But you could see the way he threw a tight spiral on a rope. I knew then that good things were in store for the Cowboys. Aikman did not post gaudy numbers in Dallas, but he wasn’t asked to. He just did what the team needed to win. Going 10-1 in the playoffs over a four-year stretch and winning 3 SBs in that span are the only two QB stats I need to know. In a West Coast offense where he would throw 35+ times per game, Aikman would’ve put up huge stats. But he played for the Cowboys at a time when they had the best OL in football and Emmitt. It was a different scene than had he played for Bill Walsh and George Seifert in SF. He would’ve had the big numbers that Steve Young put up.

    • MichaelValentino Jimmy ke4pt a leash on Aikman because of his tendency to throw picks. Look at his int % compared to Romo. The sad part is, Romo is throwing 50 passes a game and throws less picks. crap in 94 Aikman had 13 TD’s and 12 picks. Hardly what I would call an extremely accurate qb. The worst part is, he actually had time to make good reads. NTM he didnt have receivers running routes wrong etc.