Troy Aikman (b. November 21, 1966) was a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
He was born Troy Kenneth Aikman in West Covina, California, the youngest of 3 children and the only son. When he was 12, the family moved to a farm in Henryetta, Oklahoma. In "Things Change", an account of his life for kids, Aikman recounted he thought his athletic career was over, but, to his surprise and delight, it was just beginning. He made All-State in baseball and football, and his high school retired his football jersey.
After rejecting the New York Mets's bid to draft him, he went to the University of Oklahoma. Aikman grew fustrated with head coach Barry Switzer's wishbone offensive. But that became academic when he broke his leg in his debut against the University of Miami, coached by Jimmy Johnson. With Aikman on the sidelines, the Sooners won the 1985 NCAA title.
Switzer knew Aikman had a great future, but it wasn't at Oklahoma. He called his friend Terry Donahue, and got him into pass-happy UCLA. He had to sit out a year due to NCAA rules, but then went on to lead the Bruins to a 20-4 record, and wins in the 1987 Aloha and 1989 Cotton Bowls. He was inducted into the UCLA Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
He was the projected #1 overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft, won by the Cowboys. The proud franchise had fallen on hard times, going a woeful 3-13 in 1988. On February 25, 1989, new owner Jerry Jones sacked the beloved Tom Landry - the only head coach the 'Boys ever had - and replaced him with pal Johnson, who, to no one's surprise, took Aikman.
Johnson didn't bring Aikman along slowly, but threw into him the proverbial fire right off. He stumbled to an 0-11 record (155 of 293 for 1,749 yards, 9 TDs, 18 INTs) and the Cowboys went 1-15. Dallas fans - still reeling from Landry's firing - dumped on the team's new "savior."
But Aikman proved resilient and in 1990 led the Cowboys to the brink of the playoffs. He also started getting help, as Johnson showed a genius for evaluating talent, eptiomized by his selection of RB Emmitt Smith. Dallas was 7-7 with 2 weeks to play before Aikman suffered a season-ending injury. Dallas lost its final 2 games and missed the playoffs, but the NFL was taking notice of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed leader of "America's team". Advertisers were also taking notice. He began to appear in commercials and quickly became a national celebrity.
In 1991, the Cowboys made it to the playoffs and Aikman was selected to the first of his six consecutive Pro Bowls. In 1992, Aikman set career highs in completions (302), passing yards (3,445), and touchdown passes (23), and led the 'Boys to Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena against the Buffalo Bills. Aikman completed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards with 4 TDs as Dallas crushed Buffalo, 52-17. Aikman was named MVP.
The next season, Dallas again won the Super Bowl, again blowing the Bills off the field. If the Cowboys could win the Super Bowl in 1994, they would be the first team in history to win three straight Bowls. But, Jones and Johnson let their massive egos run amok. Jones sacked Johnson, and hired Switzer. In 1996, the Cowboys won a record-tying 5th Super Bowl and Aikman threw for over 3,300 yards. That August, a book was published alledging that Aikman was a racist and Switzer planted rumors that Aikman was gay because he thought Aikman was trying to get him fired. Switzer's mishandling of the situation, coupled with his own off-the-field woes, doomed his relationship with Aikman. In 1997, Aikman became the first QB in Dallas history to have 3 straight 3,000-yard seasons. However, the team missed the playoffs, and Switzer - suffering the first losing season of his career - quit in January 1998.
Turmoil and revolving-door personnel changes plagued the Cowboys for the rest of Aikman's career. His pass protection failed him repeatedly as the team - stymied by the salary cap - began a long, painful slide down. On December 10, 2000, Washington Redskins linebacker Lavar Arrington rammed him so hard into the turf, his head bounced off of it; it was the 10th concussion of his pro career. The Cowboys finished 5-11.
One month after he was waived a day before he was due a $7 million bonus/7-year contract extension, Aikman - who believed he could still play, but found no takers - announced his retirement on April 9, 2001, Jones at his side. He ended his career as the 'Boys' all-time passer (32,942 yards). His 90 wins in the 1990's is the most by any QB in any decade, and his 61.5 completion percentage is 4th best of all time. But perhaps most importantly, on a team filled with controversy and bad apples, Aikman never made embarrassing headlines or off the field.
He married former Cowboys employee Rhonda Worthey on April 8, 2000. They have two daughters, Jordan and Alexa. He has been a commentator for Fox Sports since 2001.