On October 19, Miami's Jerome Brown broke through the offensive line, sacked Aikman on the Sooner 29-yard line and broke Aikman's ankle. Aikman, who had been six of eight passing for 131 yards, would be lost for the season. Switzer and offensive coordinator Jim Donnan were forced to switch back to the wishbone offense under freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway. The team went on to win the 1985National Championship. With Holieway established as the starting quarterback at OU, Aikman decided to transfer to UCLA.
Barry Switzer oversaw Aikman's transfer to UCLA, a program under Terry Donahue that was more conducive to a passing quarterback. He had to redshirt one year due to college transfer rules but went on to lead the Bruins to a 20-4 record over two seasons.
As a senior, Aikman won the 1988 Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback, a first for UCLA. He was a Consensus All-American, the UPI West Coast Player of the Year, the Washington DC Club QB of the Year, a finalist for the 1988 AFCA "Coaches Choice" Player of the year award, and he finished third for the 1988 Heisman Trophy. UCLA matched the victory total from the previous season under Aikman, going 10-2 and losing only to USC and Washington State. The 1988 season culminated with a 17-3 Bruin victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 1989 Cotton Bowl Classic, which was played in Dallas. The Dallas media spent most of the Cotton Bowl Classic week promoting Aikman as the "next quarterback of the Cowboys," and much was made of Tom Landry watching Troy Aikman practice during the Bruins' workouts at Texas Stadium. Aikman finished his career as the number two career passing leader in UCLA history. In 2008 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. On November 28, 2014, UCLA retired his No. 8 jersey at Half time against Stanford University.
Aikman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, by the Dallas Cowboys. On February 25, 1989, new owner Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry, and replaced him with Jimmy Johnson. A few months later in the NFL's supplemental draft, Johnson drafted Steve Walsh who played for Johnson at the University of Miami. Aikman won the starting quarterback job, and Walsh was traded early in the 1990 season.
Aikman's NFL career started with a 28–0 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The following week, Aikman threw his first touchdown pass, a 65-yard completion to Michael Irvin, but the Atlanta Falcons intercepted two passes and won. In a game against the Arizona Cardinals he threw for 379 yards to set an NFL rookie record. He finished 1989 with an 0–11 record as a starter, completing 155 of 293 passes for 1,749 yards, 9 TDs, 18 INTs.
Following his rookie season, Dallas selected Florida Gators RB Emmitt Smith in the 1st round of the 1990 NFL Draft. With Emmitt Smith and WR Michael Irvin, Aikman led the Cowboys to a 7–7 record in the 1990 season, but was injured in the 15th game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys would go on to lose that game and the following week against the Atlanta Falcons with backup QB Babe Laufenberg, missing the final playoff wild card spot by one game.
In 1991, Aikman led the Cowboys to a 6–4 record in the first 10 games and had the Cowboys ahead in week 12 against undefeated Washington when he was injured. Steve Beuerlein replaced Aikman, and Dallas finished the season 5–0 and earned the #5 playoff seed. Beuerlein went on to lead the Cowboys to a road upset over the #4 seed Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round. With the Cowboys losing 17-6 at halftime the following week against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional Playoff game, Aikman was inserted to start the 3rd quarter, but was unable to provide a spark. The Cowboys lost, 38–6. Aikman was selected to the first of six consecutive Pro Bowls.
In 1992, Aikman set career highs in completions (302), passing yards (3,445) and touchdown passes (23), and led the Cowboys to a team record 13 regular season victories and the second best record in the NFC. During the playoffs, Aikman broke Joe Montana's record of 83 passes without an interception by throwing 89. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles at home in the Division Playoffs and squared off against the 49ers in the NFC Championship, a matchup that featured the two best teams in the NFC. The Cowboys won, 30–20, with Aikman completing 2 game changing completions to send the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1979. In Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills, Aikman led the Cowboys to a blowout victory, 52–17 (coincidentally the game was played in his alma mater's home stadium, the Rose Bowl). Aikman was named Super Bowl MVP after completing 22-of-30 passes for 273 yards and 4 TDs.
Troy Aikman jersey shown at Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH
In 1993, Dallas finished 12–4, the best record in the NFC. In the playoffs, Aikman again guided Dallas to home playoff victory, this time over a young, upstart Green Bay Packers squad led by QB Brett Favre, who was in his first full season as a starting QB. Aikman then shredded the 49ers secondary in the NFC Championship 38–21, before leaving the game with a concussion after 49ers DT Dana Stubblefield's knee hit Aikman's head. In Super Bowl XXVIII, Aikman was kept out of the end zone, but a combination of key turnovers by the Bills offense and the running of Emmitt Smith helped lead to a 30–13 victory for the Cowboys.
Following Super Bowl XXVIII, Aikman spoke of still feeling the ill effects of the concussion he suffered against the 49ers in the NFC Championship. Aikman spoke afterwards how he did not remember anything about Super Bowl XXVIII, let alone playing in the game.
Head Coach Jimmy Johnson left the team on March 29, 1994, and Jerry Jones hired Barry Switzer, Aikman's former college coach at Oklahoma. The Cowboys finished with the 2nd best record in the NFC, (behind the 49ers) and Aikman again missed playing time due to injuries. Dallas won their Divisional Playoff game against Green Bay 35-9, but fell to the 49ers in the NFC Championship, 38-28.
In 1995, Aikman passed for over 3,300 yards as the Cowboys once again finished with the best record in the NFC, with the 49ers having the second best record. Aikman was knocked out of a highly anticipated rematch between Dallas and San Francisco when 49ers DT Dana Stubblefield landed on Aikman, forcing his knee to hit the turf. After a stunning playoff loss at home by the 49ers to the Packers, the Cowboys hosted the Packers in the NFC Championship and, for the third straight season, knocked the Green Bay Packers out of the playoffs, this time by a 38–27 score, to earn their 3rd Super Bowl appearance in four years. Dallas won Super Bowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers 27–17, with Aikman throwing one TD pass.
In 1996, despite offensive troubles, Aikman again helped lead Dallas to another NFC East Division title and a home game for the Wild Card playoff round, a 40–15 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings. The following week, Dallas fell in the Divisional Playoffs to Carolina, 26–17, and the Cowboys wouldn't win another playoff game for thirteen years.
In 1997, Aikman became the first quarterback in Cowboys' history to have three straight 3,000-yard seasons, but the team finished 6–10 and missed the playoffs for the 1st time since 1990. Switzer suffered the first losing season of his career, and resigned at the end of the season.
1998 was a rebound year for Aikman and Cowboys, and despite missing five games, Aikman again helped lead Dallas back to the NFC East title and the playoffs. Dallas was stunned at home in the Wild Card game as the #6 seed Arizona Cardinals won, 20–7.
The 1999 season started off with a bang for Aikman and the Cowboys as they squared off against the Washington Redskins. Aikman fired a career high 5 TD passes, including the game winner in OT to beat Washington. 1999 also marked the final playoff appearance for Troy Aikman, and the final season the big three (Aikman, Irvin, and Emmitt Smith) would play together. Dallas finished 8–8 and lost in the Wild Card playoff game at Minnesota, 27–10.
The 2000 season was Aikman's final season as a professional football player. Aikman suffered from several concussions during the season, and a revolving door at QB took place between Aikman and former Eagles QB Randall Cunningham. Aikman's final game was at home against the Washington Redskins. He was hit by linebackerLaVar Arrington and suffered the tenth and final concussion of his career.
During the 2001 offseason, Aikman was waived a day before he was due a $70 million/7-year contract extension, and ultimately announced his retirement on April 9, after failing to find another team. He ended his career as the Cowboys' all-time leading passer (32,942 yards). 90 of his 94 career wins were in the 1990s and were the most by any quarterback in any decade until Peyton Manning surpassed him in the 2000s with 115 wins. Presently, Aikman is third on that list, also trailing Tom Brady (97).
During a late December 2013 radio interview, Aikman said the real reason he retired was due to persistent back issues he had in his final season. Aikman explained that he had back surgery in the offseason following Super Bowl XXVII with no complications but by the time he reached his final season he was constantly getting treatment for back pain. While the hit by Arrington ended his 2000 season, he claims it was the back pain and not that concussion that ended his career.
Key to Abbreviations GP = Games Played Att = Passes attempted Com = Passes Completed Pct = Completion percentage Yds = Yards TD =Touchdowns Int =Interceptions Long = Longest Pass Play of season QB Rating =Passer rating W/L Record = Super Bowl/Postseason Won/Loss Record
Aikman also hosts a weekly sports radio show which airs on Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. ET on Sporting News Radio, and appears weekly during the football season on the Dunham & Miller morning show on Dallas sports talk radio station 1310 The Ticket. He was a public spokesman for Acme Brick throughout his career. He is also the chairman of the Troy Aikman Foundation, a charity to benefit children that has recently focused on building playplaces for children's hospitals. The Agency Sports Management & Marketing handles Aikman's marketing activities, where Jordan Bazant is his lead agent.
Aikman, who in 1999 was ranked No. 95 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, has been the official Wing Stop spokesman for several years. He appeared in the Simpsons episode "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday" alongside former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, he participated in the 2001 and 2011 videos honoring Billy Graham's 83rd and 93rd birthdays, and he was invited to be on Dancing with the Stars but turned it down.
On September 19, 2005, at halftime of the Cowboys-Redskins game (broadcast on Monday Night Football), Aikman was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor with his longtime teammates Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith. On August 5, 2006, Aikman was one of six players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he accepted the honor, the ever-modest Aikman commented that he was merely a beneficiary of the Cowboys' system and being paired with subsequent Hall-of-Famers Irvin and Smith.
At another halftime ceremony, this one on February 7, 2009 at the UCLA-Notre Dame basketball game, Aikman's induction into the College Hall of Fame was honored. Aikman announced he had completed course work to finish his degree in sociology. He participated in UCLA's 2009 Sociology Department commencement ceremony with current quarterback Kevin Craft and former linebacker Marcus Reece, who also came back to finish his college education. Former UCLA quarterback John Sciarra was keynote speaker at the ceremony.
In late 2005, Aikman together with another former Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubach, established Hall of Fame Racing with Terry Labonte and Tony Raines co-driving the #96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2006 (the race car's number was derived by multiplying Aikman's Cowboy jersey number 8 by Staubach's jersey number 12). Raines drove for Aikman full-time in 2007, and J.J. Yeley and Brad Coleman drove the car in 2008. He has invited some of the current and former Dallas Cowboys players Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn, Roy Williams, and others to test drive NASCAR race cars at Texas Motor Speedway.
Aikman, once named the most eligible bachelor in Dallas by Texas Monthly, dated country singer Lorrie Morgan, and there were rumors of him dating Sandra Bullock and Janine Turner. He married former Cowboys publicist Rhonda Worthey on April 8, 2000, in Plano, Texas. She has a daughter from a previous marriage named Rachel Worthey, as well as 2 daughters with Aikman, Jordan Ashley Aikman, born August 24, 2001, and Alexa Marie Aikman, born July 30, 2002. The couple announced their separation on January 24, 2011. Their divorce was final April 12, 2011.