August 05, 2006

A Hero for the Day

Troy Aikman, long time quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, was inducted into the Hall of Fame on August 5, 2006. I am a lifelong fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and I have experienced the highs and lows of the team since the late 1970’s. I’m a little too young to vividly remember the glory days of America’s Team with Roger Staubach. I am old enough to have suffered through three consecutive NFC Championship losses in the early 80’s, the team’s first losing season in 21 years in 1988, and the 1-15 season in 1989. I also enjoyed watching the team win three Super Bowls in four years during the early 1990’s. Troy was the team leader during those Super Bowls.

My first exposure to Troy was during the 1989 college football season when he played for UCLA. I never followed college football, but the Arkansas Razorbacks made it to the Cotton Bowl that year for the first time in a decade. The Cotton Bowl was like the Super Bowl for Razorback fans, so it was a big deal with the locals. The Razorbacks met up with Troy and the UCLA Bruins in Dallas for the game. I went to a friend’s house to watch the game and it was the first of many games that I would watch Troy Aikman pick apart an opposing defense.

Troy was the number one selection in the 1989 NFL draft, and he went to my Dallas Cowboys – a team that had a suffered a 3-13 season the previous year. Troy’s career in Dallas started out very shaky, and he went 0-11 as a starter that season. As the years passed, Troy’s confidence grew as the team became stronger, and he became the first quarterback in the NFL to win three championships in four years. During the end of his career, the team started to fall apart, and Troy suffered several injuries that put him on the sideline. His career ended with a concussion and several so called fans of the Cowboys booing him off of the field.

Troy’s acceptance speech this afternoon was a lot like his career with the Cowboys. It started out shaky, and his voice cracked with emotion while he talked about his friendship with Norv Turner. Norv was the offensive coordinator of the Cowboys that helped turn Aikman from a potential draft bust into a three time world champion. Then Troy began to talk about the “Triplets” and the Super Bowl victories of the 1990s'. His voice became strong, and an air of confidence resonated from the podium.

Troy went on the thank every person that ever supported him during his life and football career. "I'd also like to thank the many friends, family and fans who traveled great distances to share this moment with me," he said toward the end and his lips started to quiver. But the Cowboys fans rallied and cheered him on. They began to whistle and yell, standing one more time for No. 8. They bought him some time. He expressed true humility and gratefulness for having been inducted into football immortality as a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.

"A high school coach once told me, 'In life you have a lot of acquaintances but very few friends.' For most, that's probably true, but not for me. The many friendships in my life are what made me feel every single day like I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I thank all of you for being here today."
A man that was always stoic on the football field could barely speak the words to accept an honor that he so greatly deserved.

I’m not a person that typically regards professional athletes as heroes. Hero is a title that should be reserved for people that save lives or sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Troy Aikman sacrificed himself on and off the field. He doesn’t have huge statistics like Dan Marino or Peyton Manning, because Troy was asked to play in a manner that benefited the team and didn’t pad his personal statistics. Troy also contributed large amounts of his time to charities like the United Way and he formed the Troy Aikman Foundation which benefits less fortunate kids. He also brought excitement and happiness to a poor kid from Arkansas on countless Sunday afternoons, and at least for today, I think that’s enough to make him hero.


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