Everybody is talking about Michael Irvin’s speech at the Hall of Fame. I noted on the DC Fanatic Radio Show that the speech was typical Irvin through and through; emotional, funny, touching, and presented with flair and substance. It encompassed Irvin, who was always a show-stealer as well as a Playmaker.
Today I found this Jeff Pearlman article over at ESPN, and this story, as relayed to Pearlman by free agent QB Scott Semptimphelter in 1995, who had no chance of making the team, really goes to Irvin’s core. One day after practice, Irvin asked the QB to throw him passes even though the intense Austin heat had worn down most mortals.
Nonetheless, the two trudged to a side field where Irvin ran one route after another, never jogging or stopping or taking so much as a sip of water. "In the middle of the workout he literally threw up on himself as he ran a route," Semptimphelter said. "I mean, he barfed profusely. Most guys would put hands on knees, say screw this and call it a day. Not Michael. He got back to the spot, ran another route, and caught the ball. It was absolutely amazing."
That, more than anything, is why they came to Saturday's ceremony. Why one former Cowboy after another shuffled his gridiron-battered body (or, in the case of Deion Sanders, shimmied his gridiron-battered body in a suit straight out of 3001 Space Odyssey) through the gates of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to pay homage to a man described as "the best teammate ever," "the ultimate team, ultimate hard-work guy," "the man who led us to where we wanted to go," "the heart of the Cowboys" and so on and so forth.
It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of sh** and came out clean on the other side.
Irvin sure had to crawl through a river of messes of his own making, but after yesterday, I feel like he’s come out clean on the other side.