Shout out to Princess... I had a big day against the Green Bay Packers in the 1994 divisional playoffs. In fact, I was catching so many passes that one of my Dallas Cowboys teammates, wide receiver Michael Irvin, ran over to the Green Bay sideline during the game and told the Packers they had better start coveting me because he wanted some balls. For whatever the reason, the Packers wanted to shut down our wideouts, Irvin and Alvin Harper, and our running back, Emmitt Smith. They played a lot of cover two, and that allowed me to get a lot of one-on-ones with linebackers and cornerbacks in passing situations. As a result, I had the game I'll never forget: 11 catches and 104 yards. After the game, someone told me those 11 catches were a team record. We won three Super Bowls during my time with the Cowboys, but I would say we had our best team in 1994, even though we didn't capture the championship that year. That was a transition year for us. Barry Switzer came in as the head coach, we lost some guys to free agency, and quarterback Troy Aikman got hurt during the season. Still, I felt like this was a really good team. I thought this team was mature enough, worked hard enough, knew each other well enough, and trusted each other enough to feel as though we could win every time it stepped onto the field. We also felt that way previous years, but in 1994 we had a better understanding of both the offense and defense and our kicking game was real strong. We didn't have to spend time learning plays. Since we had been running them for years, we knew them so well that could just put them in and they would be successful. We were very good. We always had a lot of great players. The only fun part of going to the Pro Bowl was that you'd see all of your friends from the Cowboys there. We had so many great players, it was impossible to pinpoint an MVP. If I could have played every game against the Packers, perhaps I would have been the MVP. I always had good games against Green Bay, and this was just another one. I think Troy threw to me 11 times in that game, and I caught all 11. Troy and I had a great connection. He would be surrounded by all kinds of linemen, just throw it to a place where he knew I would be, and I would turn around and see the ball at the last second and catch it. Ninety percent of the time, if not more, that type of connection happens immediately. It's weird to explain and difficult to understand, but it's true. The first training camp I was with Dallas, in 1990, it happened. I honestly believe that happens to most quarterbacks and receivers who have that special feeling or knowledge or understanding or sense of trust. It's like the quarterback saying, "You come out of your breaks at the time I want you to come out of your breaks. When I'm not looking your way and then do so, you're right where I think you should be, where I expect you to be." It was just one of those things that happened, but I also helped make it happen. I always flied to do more than run a route the way it was drawn up on a chalkboard. I studied where the quarterback threw to other people, what he saw, why he threw it there, and why I should be in the right place at the right time. That's basically what running a route is: being in the right place at the right time. Anyway, we were beating the Packers 28-9 at halftime, but we knew these guys could score at any time. Their quarterback, Brett Favre, was so dangerous, and they had a lot of good receivers. We knew we just could not let up against this team because in two plays, they could be back in the game. And we knew we were going to have to do a lot of passing because Emmitt Smith hurt his leg in that game. So late in the game, we were winning and I caught another pass. The thing I remember most about that game is when Michael Irvin went over to their sideline and told them they had better cover me. Obviously, Michael wanted more balls thrown to him. Shoot, everyone does. But he also was saying, "Hey, I respect Jay." That was how that whole team was. It was not, "Hey, I'm out here for myself." Instead; it was, "Hey, you've got to do something different out here. This guy is too good for you guys." That was what I read out of Michael's comment. To me, it was a compliment. We wound up winning 35-9. And Michael did indeed begin getting some balls. Here's an amazing statistic from the game: Michael, Alvin, and I all finished with more than 100 yards receiving. As for my team-record 11 catches, something like that doesn't sink in until later. Someone comes up to you afterward and mentions it to you, and you're like, "Huh?" From the Gridiron to the Open Range It's called the Upper 84 Ranch, but JAY Novacek calls it his little slice of heaven in Nebraska. Novacek, the surehanded tight end who went to five Pm Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, has turned 3,600 acres of lend near Brady Neb, into something lye bean dreaming of since. I don't know, grade school." Guests to this ranch can hunt for elk, deer, and/or six or seven other big-game species. If they're in the mood for something different, they also can hunt for geese, quail, ducks, and pheasants. Hunters from across the United States and as far away as Japan have come to his ranch. And after a long day of hunting, they can relax in an apartment Novacek made by renovating a 20,000-square-foot barn which includes a hot tub, an indoor basketball court, an archery range, and a pool table. Meanwhile, Novacek's mom June, is in charge of dinner, "My favorite are the ham balls." says Jay. "If she doesn't make enough, I get pretty upset. If there's only three or four ham balls in the meal, that's not right. I like about a half dozen. They're pretty big, too." If he's not too busy with the ranch's upkeep, Jay will be your guide. "The amazing things the countryside," says the 41-year-old Novacek. "We can build all these houses and places to stay and barns for the horses and riding arenas and everything else. To me, that's magnificent, but it doesn't even compare to the countryside. Everyone thinks of Nebraska being flat with cornfields. We really don't have a flat place on this land. There are hills and canyons and box canyons--it's lust unbelievable country. It amazes me every time I go out in these hills. There are places that in the next 10 years probably won't even get to. There are a lot of Places where the only way to get to it is on foot. Can't ride your horse there and none of the four-wheelers can get there. You have to venture out there on foot." Novacek was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 and scent his first five NFL seasons as a backup before the Cowboys signed him as a Plan B free agent in 1990. Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman immediately saw that Novacek was a guy who always would be open on third downs. A former decathlete--he even completed in the 1984 Olympic Trials--Novacek was a little quicker, a little more surehanded, and a little better at running mutes than most Other tight ends. His best year came in 1992, when he caught more passes than any other tight end (68) and Dallas won its first title of the decade. In his three Super Bowls, he caught 17 passes, including two for touchdowns. He retired at age 33 with more career receptions (422) than such noted tight ends as Mark Bavaro. Dave Casper, Jaskie Harris Brant Jones, and John Mackey. Don't be surprised if someday you see Novasek's name alongside Bob Lilly's, Roger Staubach's, and Tony Dorsett's in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor. A few people ever think he's Hall of Fame material. "That's something you can't control," says Novacek. "Every now and then you think about it. I wonder about it more than think about it of expect it. But it comes back to the same thing: What you've done you've done. You can't control any of that."