Aikman Wins Again Brad Sham - Email DallasCowboys.com Columnist August 5, 2006 5:46 PM CANTON, Ohio - Rayfield Wright waited 22 years for his day in the Canton, Ohio sun. Troy Aikman waited four hours. Aikman's wait may have felt longer. Especially if you know Troy Kenneth Aikman. It was worth every minute. There was a decidedly Cowboys flavor to Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement, and not just because Wright and Aikman gave Dallas one-third of the six-man class. The enshrinement ceremonies used to be held on the lawn of the HOF building. Just a few years ago it was moved inside Fawcett Stadium, the high school field that hosts the annual Hall Of Fame Game. Good move. The announced attendance Saturday was 19,000 fans baking in heat estimated near 90 degrees. They had been waiting four hours when Aikman's turn came, and most of them, nearly all who remained, were Cowboys fans. They wore T-shirts and jerseys. They rattled the place with "M-O-O-O-O-S-E" calls at the sight of Daryl Johnston. When Emmitt Smith's and Michael Irvin's images were showed on the big scoreboards, the place erupted. It felt a little like the mid-1990s again. Even Norv Turner, taking the weekend off from 49ers training camp to serve as Aikman's presenter, opened his remarks by saying, "You know, even if it's just for a weekend, it's nice to be around the Cowboy fans and Troy." Some of the fans were there because of the Silver and Blue. Some, like former teammates Jethro Pugh and Thomas Henderson, were there specifically to support Wright. But it was clear at about 4:50 pm (EDT) that most of them were there for Troy Aikman. Just as was the case for most of his career, Aikman delivered. In presenting Aikman, Turner recalled a career that was at its best in the "biggest games against the best teams. There was never any 'why' or 'what if' with Troy. He had the ability to focus and stay focused in the most unusual circumstances. One of the best examples was the 1992 NFC Championship Game. With about four minutes left, Alvin Harper ran a slant, Troy hit him right between the numbers, and Alvin carried it and Troy and the rest of the team all the way to the Super Bowl." And Saturday, Aikman put one right between the numbers again. These Hall Of Fame acceptance speeches are tricky deals. You're given a 10-minute time limit which is practically impossible to meet. You only get one shot at it. There are no do-overs. You want to keep it short enough to hold the audience's attention but make sure you say what you want to say. You want the speech to be who you are. Aikman drew the worst post position, too: Sixth in a six-man field. He had to sit and wait and keep his edge sharp and his nerves quiet while everyone else took their turn. For a man whose patience is not his strong suit, this is no small feat. But Troy Aikman went into the Hall of Fame with a win, same as he did all those times that got him here. His speech reflected his career and his persona: It shone with class. The closest Aikman got to a "me" moment was in repeating something he'd been saying since even before he was voted into the Hall in February: "It's extremely gratifying to have played without regard for my personal numbers and have it be rewarded with the greatest individual honor a player can receive." Instead, most of his presentation was just like his career: As Turner said, "Troy had the ability to bring out the best in his teammates. He demanded the best from himself and he expected the same from everyone else around him." So Troy Aikman began his once-in-a-lifetime moment by thanking the fans who were still there for sticking around. Then he thanked the HOF weekend organizers, and, as Warren Moon had before him, he promised an annual return to the event. But if you know Troy Kenneth Aikman, you know how emotional a moment this was 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.