Canton, From Me To You

pulled it off, and here is one poignant excerpt of what he had to say:

"(Troy) Aikman told me yesterday that Michael would never let the team have a bad practice. If there was a lull, he would create something between the defense and the offense. He'd get some stuff going just so that team could practice and get better for what they had to face Sunday.

"Maybe that's the quality that separates the good players from the great players - the Hall of Fame players. Or maybe it's just the natural instincts of a man who had 16 brothers and sisters and knew that nothing in life was going to be given to him."


While Irvin's speech was emotionally heavy, he did take time out twice to lighten things up a tad, and the first was his playful way of acknowledging how much Cowboys public relations director Rich Dalrymple, the sports information director at the University of Miami, meant to him all these years.

"I also walked on campus at the University of Miami the same day with our PR director, Rich Dalrymple," Irvin said. "I know some of you are saying it's fitting that you are tight with the PR director, Michael. But Rich has been a great friend. When I walk in his office now Rich has a picture of us. He has pictures of us at the University of Miami with his nice, beautiful black hair, and then has pictures of us now when he's all gray.

"He says to me all the time: 'You see these gray hairs?' I say, 'Yeah.' He says, 'Well, you gave them to me.' And I tell him, 'Well, you see those four championships rings you have? I gave them to you.'"



Here was a real treat. Friday night after the $140-a-plate jacket presentation dinner - I didn't eat - Irvin had a little get-together at the Hall of Fame, and those in attendance had the run of the place. The entire Hall was open to all the guests.

Well, three of us ventured upstairs into the little rotunda where all the busts are on display, the classes segregated year by year, going back to the first induction 44 years ago. And the room was empty. Just us and the busts. No neck craning to see your favorite Hall of Famer. No one to get in the way of pictures. Just us and the busts, and you got the idea John Madden knew what he was talking about last year when he suggested he was certain those guys talked to each other each night when the lights went off.

Seriously, and although we didn't hear anything, maybe we interrupted them or just kept them up a little later than usual. Kinda eerie to tell you the truth.


How priceless was Irvn's recollection of that 1994 NFC Championship game when the Cowboys went down 21 after opening the game with turnovers on their first three possessions?

"We were down 21," Irvin reminded. "Troy came into the huddle with those big blue eyes and he looked up and he said, 'Hey, I'm coming to you no matter what.' Whew, let me tell you, as a wide receiver, that's all I ever wanted to hear. Just come to me no matter what. And he did . . . he did . . . he came to me no matter what.

"But, Troy, you've always come to me no matter what, and I'm not just talking about on the football field."

Sure he has, and Irvin will never forget Aikman, as uncomfortable as it might have been, making an appearance one day in downtown Dallas court during Irvin's abbreviated trial after being indicted on felony drug possession charges. Aikman would later explain that's simply what friends do for friends.


While it's fun attending these inductions, work calls, and unfortunately I'm told by time I arrived at Irvin's after-party, darn it, I missed the Pointer Sisters performing . . . . Since the induction ceremony was moved to a night-time event, the Hall allowed the inductees to stage their parties in tents already on the Hall of Fame grounds. So some of the guys made the rounds to the other parties. Roger Wehrli and wife Gail made an appearance at Michael's. So did Mike Munchak, who presented his former Oilers teammate Bruce Matthews. Jim Kelly also stopped by, as did Bruce Smith. Sure must be tough on those Bills, who

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