Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and earned a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He just finished his 20th season with Fox Sports. At the end of the 2021 season, he will work his seventh Super Bowl as an analyst.
We caught up with Aikman for this week’s “Friday Five” …
1. Who is your biggest mentor?
I’ve been fortunate throughout my life, really, to be around a lot of very good people. Athletically, I had great coaches when I was a kid growing up. I was around a lot of really talented players in California. And then the family moved. I started my first two years at Oklahoma, and when I transferred to UCLA, Rick Neuheisel was a volunteer – he wasn’t even getting paid. But (head coach) Terry Donahue brought him in to work with me during that redshirt season. He was really helpful and I learned a lot of football that year. There were days that we didn’t even go out on the practice field with the team. We just stayed in a meeting room and watched tape, and I learned a lot about defenses and offensive football. It was a crash course for me, which was really beneficial when I ended up taking over.
In the NFL, I would say it was Norv Turner who really helped me and got my career on track the first couple of years that I was in the league. Not just mine, but our entire offense, with Michael (Irvin) and Emmitt (Smith). Both of those guys would credit Norv with a lot of their successes, and getting us on the right track as well.
It would be those guys, but I hate to single out anyone, because there’s a long list of people who have really impacted me.
2. What’s your top pet peeve?
People that are late for appointments, or for anything, really. I’m rarely ever late. I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late. I just think it’s a lack of respect for people’s time when you’re late, so that’s probably the biggest thing. That, and bad drivers.
I was having a conversation with somebody just the other day about this … They said, “Well I don’t understand. If the meeting’s at 9:00 and you come in at 9:00, then you’re not late.” But it the meeting’s at 9:00 and you’re walking in at 9:00, then you are late, because you’re not ready for the meeting to start.
3. What’s your favorite book?
I would say Untethered Soul is the best book that I’ve read. I read it a year ago. It was very impactful in the space that I’ve been spending a lot of time in – health and wellness and mindfulness. Another book that was really impactful to me years ago was Sacred Hoops, Phil Jackson’s book. That kind of got me going on that path many years ago. But Untethered Soul would be my favorite right now.
4. If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would they be?
Vince Lombardi is always at the table. Elvis Presley would be there. And then I’d probably say – normally I’d have more than three, but if it’s just three at the table, the other one would be John F. Kennedy. Those three. But I would think Nelson Mandela would be one that I’d really like to be there. Martin Luther King Jr. would be incredible. I guess maybe I’d replace JFK with Nelson Mandela.
5. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your teen self?
I’d probably say, Enjoy the journey a little bit more. Take the time to appreciate the effort. I think I’ve gotten better at that as I’ve gotten older. But I think a lot of people that are wired like me, you focus so much on the result that you fail to really appreciate the effort and the work of getting there. And I think where I’m at now, that’s what I would have told my younger self, to really cherish and value each day along the way of getting to where you ultimately want to go. I think that most players in the NFL can say this. I lived out a dream. My dream was always to be a professional athlete. I got to do that, and I got to do that at a high level, enjoyed a lot of successes along the way. I would have said just to appreciate that part of it – the path of getting to where you ultimately want to go – a little bit more.