On that day in December 1988, Aikman was the quarterback at UCLA
and still months from being drafted. On Monday night, he joined
that exclusive Dallas group with Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
Aikman, Smith and Irvin -- known together as "The Triplets" --
were added to the Ring of Honor together, a recognition of the
players most associated with the Cowboys' last Super Bowl titles.
"It was made even more special going in beside Michael and
Emmitt," Aikman said. "I remember looking at the names, but no, I
never in my wildest dreams ... I don't know what Michael and Emmitt
thought. Knowing them, they thought they were going in."
Irvin the receiver, Aikman the passer and Smith the runner
joined the Cowboys in successive years, 1988, '89 and '90, each as
a first-round pick. They ended up helping Dallas win three Super
Bowls in a four-year period in the 1990s.
It was only fitting that they got inducted together, the first
players from the Jerry Jones era added to the Ring of Honor.
"I can't write my life story without Emmitt and Troy. They
can't write their life stories without me. We're tied together
forever," Irvin said. "This is a day to remember for the rest of
Smith's name was already hanging in the rafters of Texas Stadium
on a banner recognizing the NFL's career rushing leader, a
distinction he earned on that field Oct. 27, 2002. But he was the
only of the Triplets to wear a different NFL uniform, playing the
last two seasons in Arizona before retiring in January.
"To me as an athlete, this is the closeout part of it. ... This
is complete," Smith said. "A lot of the things that we
accomplished happened right here. It is a unique opportunity to
celebrate it right here."
Irvin played his last game in 1999, and Aikman's career ended
after the following season.
The names of Irvin, Aikman and Smith were placed at midfield on
the side of the stadium opposite the Cowboys bench -- and the names
of the 14 previous inductees, eight of which were present for the
ceremony at halftime of the game against longtime NFC East rival
Washington. The Redskins rallied with two long fourth-quarter strikes to edge the Cowboys 14-13.
Even though it was a national game on Monday night, the ceremony
wasn't televised by ABC. The network was doing a telethon for
victims of Hurricane Katrina as part of its unusual Monday night
doubleheader that began with the New Orleans Saints' 'home' game at
the New York Giants.
While Aikman said he didn't think about the Ring of Honor before
playing for the Cowboys, he was right about his teammates. Irvin
and Smith both thought about being part of it.
"I didn't always know, but I always wanted to," Irvin said.
"I always wanted to be the very best receiver the Cowboys ever
had. That was my goal coming in as a rookie and my goal throughout
my career: being the best they ever had, going up in the Ring of
One of the first questions he was asked after being drafted by
the Cowboys was if he knew who the team's career receiving leader
was. The question was asked by Drew Pearson, who at the time was
"I said it to Drew in my brash, young, ignorant way, I don't
know who it is now, but I know who will be in about 10 years,"
Irvin still holds Cowboys records for catches (750), receiving
yards (11,904) and 100-yard games (47), including a team record
seven in a row in 1991.
Smith remembered going to Texas Stadium, wearing a polka-dotted
suit, on the day he got drafted.
"I looked up to the roof and saw Bob Lilly on the right side
and I looked up there, 'Wow!' and went all the way around the
stadium," Smith said. "I said one of these days my name is going
to be up there. Now it is."
Like his teammates, Smith called the induction a humbling
Seeing names on the Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium, and on
similar tributes in other stadiums, has always conjured up emotions
and memories for Aikman.
"The humbling part for me is going to be some kid or some fan
that in years to come walks into Texas Stadium and sees my name and
that will bring up an emotion or memory of something I achieved on
the field," Aikman said. "That's the humbling part of it, and to
be alongside some of the great names in the history of this
franchise. It means a lot."