Aikman, Troy

Aikman, Troy
▪ 1997

      U.S. professional football quarterback Troy Aikman not only led the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) to three Super Bowl victories (1993, 1994, 1996) but also helped restore the lustre that the squad once enjoyed as "America's Team." The Cowboys, one of the most dominant and popular teams in the 1970s, had fallen on lean times by 1989, when Jerry Jones bought the club, replacing longtime head coach Tom Landry with Jimmy Johnson and building a star-studded backfield around quarterback Aikman (drafted 1989) and running back Emmitt Smith (drafted 1991). By the mid-1990s, owing to his rugged good looks and the precision and the power of his passing game, Aikman was one of football's top celebrities. In his first seven seasons with the Cowboys, he completed nearly 63% of his passes, including 98 touchdown throws.

      Aikman was born on Nov. 21, 1966, in West Covina, Calif., and raised in Cerritos, a suburb of Los Angeles, before moving to the small town of Henryetta, Okla., where he was an all-state high school standout. He was hotly recruited by coaches Barry Switzer of the University of Oklahoma and Johnson of Oklahoma State University; both later coached him as a professional. Aikman chose Switzer, who introduced the wishbone formation to the Oklahoma offense, emphasizing a running game at the expense of Aikman's strong passing skills. As a sophomore in 1985, Aikman broke his leg in the fifth game of the season and, because he was not well suited to the wishbone offense, lost his place as starting quarterback. Oklahoma went on to win the national championship, and Aikman went on to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where, as a transfer student, he had to sit out the 1986 season. He shone in his remaining two years at UCLA, completing 65% of his passes and leading his squad to a 20-4 record, with postseason victories in the Aloha Bowl (December 1987) and the Cotton Bowl (January 1989). Named All-American in his senior year, he placed third in the polling for the Heisman Trophy, college football's most prestigious award.

      In 1989 the Cowboys made Aikman their number one draft selection and the wealthiest rookie in league history, with a six-year, $11 million contract. He fared poorly in his first few seasons, throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes and missing games because of injuries. In 1992-93, however, his first season without injuries, Aikman led the team to a Super Bowl victory and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. On the way to a second Super Bowl win in 1994, he became the highest-paid player in NFL history, with an eight-year, $50 million contract. In March 1994 Johnson was replaced as head coach by Switzer, who oversaw the Cowboys' continued success—much of which was due to Aikman's heroics in postseason play, during which he held the career record for passing percentage, highest average yard gain, and longest pass completion. (TOM MICHAEL)

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Universalium. 2010.

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