We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 8 and a legendary player.
QB Troy Aikman
Born: 21st November 1966 (56) - West Covina, California
College: UCLA Bruins
Draft: 1989, Round 1, Pick 1, Dallas Cowboys
30 Years Ago Today— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) February 1, 2023
Super Bowl XXVII
MVP Troy Aikman (22-30, 273 yds, 4 TD), Emmitt Smith (135 total yds, TD), Michael Irvin (6-114-2 rec), and a Super Bowl record 9 (!) takeaways by the defense lead Dallas to a 52-17 walk over the #Bills at the Rose Bowl.#Cowboys' third ring pic.twitter.com/nLc1idwSVN
Games Played: 165
Pass Attempts: 4,715
Pass Completions: 2,898
Pass Accuracy: 61.5%
Passing Yards: 32,942
Rush Yards: 1,016
Rush TDs: 9
Passer Rating: 81.6
Troy Aikman was a dual-sport player coming out of high school and had an offer to play baseball, but opted instead to play football and enrolled with the Oklahoma Sooners in 1984. As a freshman, Aikman made his first start for the Sooners. He ended the season throwing three interceptions off 20 pass attempts and failed to score a touchdown.
In 1985, Aikman would play most the season but failed to maintain the starting role after he broke his ankle. Oklahoma would go on to win the National Championship that year with Aikman off to the sideline. Aikman ended the season with 27 completions for 442 yards and one passing touchdown. He transferred at the end year and went to UCLA.
Due to NCAA rules, Aikman had to sit out one year but in 1987 he looked very effective as a passer. He was named PAC-10 Offensive Player of The Year after he led UCLA to a 10-2 season and defeating Florida in the Aloha Bowl. He ended the season with 2,525 yards and 17 touchdowns and a passer rating of 157.6.
In his senior year, Aikman became the first player for UCLA to win the Davey O’Brien Award and came third in the Heisman race. He ended the year with 228 completions for 2,771 yards and 24 touchdowns. During the Cotton Bowl and pre-draft process, Dallas were very vocal about their feelings on Aikman and claimed numerous times he would their next starting quarterback.
Troy Aikman goes "Prime Time", hitting @DeionSanders with a 47-yard first quarter strike that leads to the #Cowboys' first touchdown in Super Bowl XXX.— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 28, 2023
The first full-time defensive player to catch a pass in a Super Bowl
27 years ago today pic.twitter.com/bMJkuh2Uev
1989 was a very busy year for Dallas. Jerry Jones became the new owner of the team and quickly fired legendary coach Tom Landry, replacing him with Jimmy Johnson. The next move came with drafting Troy Aikman and what would become the foundation to one of the most dominating teams the NFL had ever witnessed.
Aikman’s rookie year was not off to good a start when he lost to New Orleans in a shutout. He ended the year 155 completions on 293 passes for 1,749 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. As a starter, Aikman was 0-11 in the NFL.
The next season saw the historical trade occur with the Herschel Walker Trade, and the Cowboys acquired running back Emmitt Smith. From here the Triplets were born. With the team on the rise and players developing, they went on to go 7-7 missing the playoffs by the smallest of margins.
In 1991, Aikman had the Cowboys ahead of the competition and was looking to send the Cowboys to the playoffs. The Cowboys ended up making the playoffs but in Week 12 against Washington, Aikman was injured and was out for the rest of the season. He did return after halftime against Detroit in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Cowboys offense couldn’t close the deficit however and were eliminated. Aikman was nominated to his first Pro Bowl after he had 237 completions for 2,754 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The next season it all started to come together for Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys went on to win 13 games in the regular season and Aikman set personal single-season records with 302 completions, 3,445 yards and 23 touchdowns. During the playoffs the Cowboys swept two very talented rosters in the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Aikman was taking the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. Aikman would win Super Bowl MVP when he threw four touchdowns and completed 22 of his 30 pass attempts. Aikman was surgical during the game. The Cowboys defeated the Bills 52-17 in a dominating display by the Cowboys offense.
The next year saw the Cowboys go 12-4 and again get to the playoffs. Aikman and the Cowboys offense would dominate in the playoffs against both the Green Bay Packers and the 49ers. Aikman was insanely effective in the NFC Championship game against the 49ers and picked the defense apart. He would also play the final portion of the game with a concussion, something he later admitted and says he has no recollection of the game. The Cowboys again faced the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl and they looked more prepared for Aikman. Unfortunately for the Bills they forgot about Emmitt Smith who went on to win Super Bowl MVP.
In 1994, the Cowboys had a new head coach with Barry Switzer, someone very familiar to Aikman from his time in Oklahoma. The Cowboys continued to theri dominance until they lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Aikman had a Pro Bowl year but missed time due to injury.
Aikman passed for 3,304 yards and 16 touchdowns in 1995. The Cowboys finished with the best record in the NFC and again went into the playoffs. The Cowboys hosted the Packers in the NFC Championship, for the third straight season, the Cowboys knocked the Packers out of the playoffs. The Cowboys went to another Super Bowl, this time facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aikman was again methodical and showed true leadership helping the team to its third Lombardi in four years. He threw for 209 yards and one touchdown on the day and ended with a passer rating of 108.8.
In 1996, the offense was met with a few issues. Regardless, Aikman stayed on course and tried his hardest to steady the ship. The Cowboys still managed to win the division and be crowned NFC East champions entering the playoffs even though Aikman threw for a total of 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. They beat the Vikings in the playoffs but hit a brick wall a week later by losing to the Carolina Panthers. Aikman struggled throwing three interceptions and passed for only 165 yards.
In 1997, Aikman became the first quarterback in Cowboys’ history to have three straight 3,000-yard passing seasons. Even with his production however, the team ended the season with a 6–10 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1990. At the end of the season Switzer resigned.
The next season saw a mini-resurgence from Aikman and the Cowboys, and despite missing five games, Aikman again helped lead the Cowboys back to the NFC East title and back into the playoffs. In the Wild Card round the Cowboys were defeated in a shock victory by the Arizona Cardinals, 20-7.
1999 would mark the final year that Aikman would get into the playoffs. He did have a career game though when the Cowboys played against Washington, when he threw five touchdowns. The Cowboys would end the year 8-8 and would lose to the Vikings in the Wild Card round. This would mark the end of an era. The next season Aikman would suffer a number of concussions and struggle to get back on form. He would also complain about severe back pain and before he was due to sign a contract extension he announced his retirement.
After his retirement from professional football, Aikman joined Fox as an announcer and commentator. Soon he was named to the network’s lead announcing crew. He is seen as one of the nations top NFL game-time presenters and one of Dallas Cowboys’ most successful players. He holds the most number of Super Bowl wins for Dallas as a starting quarterback, he is still second in all-time passing yards, third in passing touchdowns and his 94 total-wins are the most for Dallas at the quarterback position. He currently still resides in Dallas.