Aikman Wins Again

for him, because when he talked about what the Hall meant to him now that he was in it, you could detect a slight quaver in his voice. When he thanked Turner for his coaching, for being "the big brother I never had (and for being) the single biggest influence on my career," his voice cracked. 

Knowing Troy Aikman is knowing a man more capable than anyone else you're likely to meet of single-mindedness. Whoever taught him the ability to impose his will on a given situation taught him well. We all saw him do it as a football player. His teammates will tell you how he did it in the huddle, in practice, in the meeting room. Anyone watching or listening saw and heard him do it again on pro football's most profound stage.  

His voice cracked then, and it cracked again later when he recognized his mother, Charlyn. And when it came time to note his appreciation for "my wife Rhonda, who is my best friend, who inspires me daily in ways no one ever has before," it took a very deep breath for Troy Aikman to keep it together. When he thanked his family and the friends who had come from all over the country to pay tribute to him, his voice caught again. 

But Troy Aikman is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his ability to master difficult situations. This was one, and he nailed it. He is also in the Hall because of the person he has always been. Frankly, if you'll pardon your correspondent speaking as one who knows him reasonably well, he has always dripped with class, and he did again, recognizing his new teammates in the HOF Class of '06, and even congratulating CBS' Lesley Visser on being awarded the Pete Rozelle radio-TV award. What Hall of Famer recognizes a media award winner in his speech? 

Troy Aikman, that's who. 

If Aikman had any question about what he means to the people whose lives he's touched, all he had to do was listen to the ovation from all those fans. All he had to do was look into the audience and see the former teammates who'd come out for him: Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Johnston, Bill Bates, Nate Newton, Jay Novacek, Erik Williams, Mark Stepnoski, Kevin Gogan, Dale Hellestrae, Jason Garrett, Babe Laufenberg, Charles Haley, Pono Tuinei (Mark's widow), coaches Joe Avezzano, Robert Ford, Jim Bates and Dave Wannstedt, former scouting chief Larry Lacewell, plus, of course, owner Jerry Jones and his entire family, who flew in from training camp in Oxnard. And, typically, Aikman mentioned nearly all of them. 

(He also devoted two paragraphs to former head coach Jimmy Johnson, who couldn't figure out a way to get to Canton, but that's another story.) 

Troy Aikman's career was about winning, no matter who got the credit. His Hall of Fame speech was about giving credit to nearly every man who ever coached him, to his family and friends and teammates. And so he won again. 

There's just one part of the weekend that won't go Aikman's way. At the Friday afternoon press conference, Aikman said with a pointed edge, "It's a very emotional weekend because it's kind of one final opportunity to thank the people that have impacted your career and acknowledge the people who have meant so much. Then in my mind, it's, 'Okay, we're not going to revisit this anymore. It kind of is in the can and we can move on.'" 

And he will. Attention for Troy Aikman can now turn to family, children, broadcasting, NASCAR, business, whatever's next and after that. 

But as John Madden pointed out, those busts are in the Hall of Fame "forever and ever and ever and ever and ever." That's how long people will be coming into the building and looking at Troy Aikman's likeness and reliving the brilliant career that brought so much joy to so many for so long. That's one situation Aikman will just have to accept.                                 

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