Three Of A Kind

yards, his quarterback rating or how many come-from-behind victories he engineered. Just win, baby. He coulda been a Raider.

And Emmitt, he was the pup, more of a follower than a leader, a position he became somewhat uncomfortable with when left alone his final two seasons with the Cowboys. He liked the spotlight, for sure, but never needed all the watts to sustain himself.

Amazing isn't it, that on a team with a budding Hall of Fame quarterback, who was throwing to a budding Hall of Fame receiver, there was a budding Hall of Fame running back who would wind up carrying the ball for more yards than anyone in the history of the NFL - and all winning at an unprecedented rate.

Think about this now. The guy who ends his career as the NFL's all-time leading rusher and all-time rushing touchdowns leader playing for the same team, at the same time with the guy who becomes the team's all-time leader in both receptions and receiving yards while both playing at the same time on the same team with the guy who leads the organization in career yards passing, completions, completion percentage, passing touchdowns and attempts.

How can that be? Come on, there must have been more than one football out there.

How did they ever coexist?

"They were smart, and recognized incredibly quick how much they depended on each other," said Jones. "(Aikman and Irvin) would get defenses out of eight-man fronts and (Smith) would get them back in it."

OK, fine. But still, how did they take the me out of football? We're not talking the 60's here. These were the look-at-me 90's.

Irvin had two reasons. First, he said they all bought into Jimmy Johnson's College-Joe concept that "winning takes care of everything," a adage Johnson preached on and on, especially after the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII in an effort to keep his team even-keeled for that run at consecutive Super Bowls.

And second?

"The friendships we forged before we had success," Irvin said.

They bonded, somehow, the kid who grew up in rural Oklahoma, with the kid who grew up dirt poor on the fast streets of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with the kid who grew up in the tiny coast town of Pensacola whose world had basically been the Florida Panhandle for 20 years.

Maybe because of their work ethic, these three from such differing backgrounds but brought up with such grass-roots principles.

So they never begrudged one another's success. Irving would catch a deep ball, landing at the one, and Emmitt would promptly say, "Thank you very much," as Aikman would raze Michael about picking up just one more yard so they'd get the touchdown.

There was no T.O. in this group.

Which again speaks of their personalities and upbringings, and as Aikman said, how they entered the league, all facing adversity early in their careers, "and I don't think we ever lost sight of that. So many times egos get in the way . . . but we all recognized winning is a lot of fun."

And maybe, too, there was some divine intervention here - just meant to be, especially when you look at the circumstances of Irvin having arrived in 1988, Aikman coming with the first pick in 1989 and Emmitt arriving in 1990 with the 17th pick after Johnson tried his hardest to land a linebacker in the first round instead.

And to top it off, Norv Turner arriving in 1991 to resurrect a stale offense, and ignite these three Ring of Honor and soon-to-be Hall of Fame careers.

"The stars lined up perfectly," said Smith, at a loss for a tangible explanation as he rattled off, with a certainly amount of amazement, how the three landed in Dallas. "It's destiny. And when it's destiny, I don't think you can mess it up.

"Maybe it didn't have anything to do with us. How else would you describe it? I don't think anyone would have written a script like that."

No, back in 1990, no one would have, not when the Cowboys were the butt of many a joke in these parts, and they included the quarterback, the running back, the wide receiver, the coach and the owner, too. (Hey, will the lady who left those 11 kids at Texas Stadium, please come back and pick them up. They are beating the Cowboys.)

So as Jerry Jones began writing the final

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