Michael, Emmitt and Troy.
Those are my guys. That's my era. I can finally put in my two cents. Nah, let's make it a dollar for these three.
Let start with Irvin. He arrived first and ironically was first to leave, although not on his terms. Easily, the second-worst sight I've seen in recent years was Irvin being taken off in a stretcher there on that rainy day in Philadelphia back in 1999. With his facemask having to be removed from his helmet, Irvin never would play another down after the injury to his neck revealed he had a narrow spinal cord and doctors advised him to cut his career short. Wisely, Irvin listened.
The worst sight had to be those Eagles fans cheering when Irvin went down, lying on that Veterans Stadium cement. But then again, after six trips to Philadelphia myself, it was more of a shock then than it is now.
But while that might have been the worst moment of Irvin's career, there were so many glorious ones to mention.
When I think about Irvin, I see those two touchdown catches in Super Bowl XXVII that occurred 18 seconds apart - the second of which showing the athletic ability he got criticized so much for not having. I think of Irvin coming back from that knee injury in 1990 to catch the game-winner from Aikman in Tampa Bay.
Or how about the NFC Championship game from the 1994 season when Irvin simply refused to let the Cowboys lay down for the 49ers, who jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead. For Irvin took the Cowboys on his back and nearly pulled out a massive comeback on his own. He caught 12 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Although the 49ers still hung on to a 38-28 win, denying the Cowboys a chance to win three straight Super Bowls, Irvin proved to be every bit the heart and soul of the team.
And one more time for the record, we all know Deion grabbed Irvin's arm and should've been flagged for pass interference. If there's one scenario in sports I'd like to have seen, it's the Cowboys scoring a touchdown there and trailing the 49ers 38-35 with about five minutes to play.
Oh well, that was certainly the CliffsNotes version of the Irvin memories. And it's just as tough narrowing down the great moments for both Emmitt and Troy.
Just like Irvin, one of my favorite Aikman memories was also during a loss.
Sure, the Super Bowls were all magical, especially the first one where Aikman threw four touchdowns and was named MVP.
But long before the golden boy reached the superstar level, Aikman earned some respect in a 24-20 loss to the Cardinals during his rookie season in 1989.
Aikman, the No. 1 pick in the draft, missed five straight games because of a broken finger. Despite his backup Steve Walsh leading the team to their first and only-win of the season the week before against the Redskins, Aikman returned to the lineup the next week in Arizona.
To me, that's when Aikman became, well . . . Aikman.
The rookie passed for 379 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yarder to James Dixon that he probably doesn't even remember. Trailing by four late in the fourth quarter, Aikman stepped up in the pocket, and just before getting drilled by a blitzing linebacker, zipped a perfect pass to Dixon who outran the defense to the end zone.
Oh, Aikman took quite a shot. Probably giving him the first of several concussions he would endure in his career. Despite the Cowboys eventually giving up the winning touchdown a few minutes later and losing to the Cardinals, Aikman earned a lot of respect that day.
He showed he could take a hit and he showed he could deliver in the clutch. Now he would show both traits many more times in much bigger games. But that was the first time for me and that's what sticks out the most.
As for Emmitt, his memories could fill up a whole column by itself. All the touchdowns he scored, the records he broke and the rushing titles he won - Emmitt Smith has had a career of special moments.
Sure, the day he broke Walter Payton's rushing record in 2002, willing himself toward every yard that day, was a day to remember. Or the time he played with a bum shoulder against the Giants and willed the entire team to a victory and an NFC East