Troy Aikman: My Favorite Player & My Favorite Play
In meeting and shaking the hands of many lifelong Cowboy fans over the past couple of years, I have noticed a common denominator that links nearly all of them together. Very often, their fondest memories of the Cowboys derive from their youth, when the sun always shone brighter and the glory of autumn Sundays was always magnified. It’s why countless old-timers tell me of the toughness of “Dandy” Don Meredith, or the brilliance of Tom Landry and that daring magician of a quarterback named Staubach. It’s why little kids of today wear Jason Witten jerseys, and think Tony Romo can do no wrong.
For me, growing up in the heart of Texas during the 1990’s, the Cowboys were playing like America’s Team once again, capturing three Super Bowls from 1992-95, while qualifying for postseason play an astounding eight times. Under those circumstances, it was only natural that a football-loving, sports-playing kid like myself fall in love with America’s golden boy quarterback.
When it comes to the Cowboys, Troy Aikman has been, and probably always will be, my all-time favorite player. Nobody was tougher, more calm under pressure, or more accurate from the pocket than No. 8. At least, that’s the way I remember it.
Of the many memories that I have from Aikman’s heyday, there is one in particular that I will always hold above the rest, more out of personal prejudice than any historical significance that it carried. You see, as a kid that strived to mimic his every move, the ultimate scoring play was when Aikman crossed the goal line himself. And that’s what happened during the first quarter of a 1996 Wild Card playoff game versus Minnesota at Texas Stadium.
At the Vikings 2-yard line in a scoreless game, Aikman received the snap from center Ray Donaldson, rolled out to his right in a long arc before finally turning the corner and racing for the pylon. Just before the defense caught up to him, Aikman dove into the end zone head-first to give his team the spark they needed. Dallas won the game by a 40-15 score, which, ironically was Aikman’s final career playoff victory.
There have certainly been more spectacular plays throughout the course of the franchise’s history, but this one captured my imagination for its plethora of possibilities it created while playing a pick-up game in the backyard with friends and family. I had spent hundreds and hundreds of hours (and that’s not an exaggeration) practicing Aikman’s every move in the pocket. I had his drop-back down pat, his stance, and his throwing motion. (I was even working on facial expressions.) But now, Aikman had proven himself equally adept as a scrambler extraordinaire, so I had to expand my practice habits. And nothing better demonstrates the grit and determination of a football player than an all-out dive for a touchdown. Your teammates love you, your opponent discovers a newfound respect for you, and, well…what’s not to like about getting all dirty during a football game?
Aikman wasn’t afraid of getting his pants stained, and if he wasn’t, then neither was I!