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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thank You Michael, Thank you for the memories

"He’s an inspirational and natural born leader. He’s a Dallas Cowboy."
----Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys

No one is perfect.

Michael Irvin knows this. But never has someone who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame elaborated on that sentiment like Irvin did tonight.

After 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and three Super Bowls, The Playmaker can now say he did it, even though he doubted if he could. He's one of the elite. He's a Hall of famer.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones used one word to describe Irvin: W-I-L-L

"I've never seen anyone with more of it," he said.
Ironically, it was a devastating loss that became Irvin's most memorable game. In the 1994 NFC Championship, Dallas spotted the 49ers a 21-point lead, with seven of those points from an Irvin fumble.

But as Irvin said, the team never gave up. Irvin went on to break an NFC championship game record with 192 receiving yards on 12 receptions and two touchdowns in the 38-28 loss.

On Oct. 10, 1999, Irvin's career ended on a short slant against the Eagles. He slammed his head onto the turf and suffered a serious spinal injury. As the Eagles fans cheered, my head hung low as I witnessed the end of an era.

Irvin was the last player chosen in the Landry era. He suffered through 1-15 and 3-13 seasons before reaching the NFL's top game. Jerry Jones said Irvin was the catalyst, the spark, of those championship teams.

"The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s were champions," Jones said. "The heart and the soul of those championship teams was Michael Irvin."

"His hard work is legendary. His passion, his competitiveness, were really possibly his greatest gifts and he shared them with his teammates on a daily basis."
Irvin had his faults, Jones said. But only Irvin could overcome his fallibility and use his inner strength to land on his feet stronger than before. It was no surprise to hear Irvin thank the fans first. Irvin discussed how he endured through his troubled life. Prayer obviously helped him through the difficulties, along with his loving wife Sandy and four children.

Another moment in his life that helped him heal was last year's Super Dome return for the New Orleans Saints.

"I watched our people who had suffered so grievously through Hurricane Katrina fill the stadium hours before a game and stay hours after the game. I witnessed those fans as they look for each other, love one another, and just be thankful to be in that stadium. You seen the game flex its greatest muscle that game: The ability to heal. I experienced a football game that contributed the healing of a city. So don’t tell me it is just a game."
Irvin then reached out to his two sons, ages 10 and 8.
"That’s my heart right there. That's my heart. When I am on that threshing floor, I pray. I say God, I have my struggles. And I made some bad decisions. But whatever you do, whatever you do, don’t let me mess this up. I asked, I said please help me, raise them for some young lady so that they can be a better husband than I. Help me, help me raise them for their kids so that they can be a better father than I. And I tell you guys, to always do the right thing so that you can be a better role model than Dad."
Irvin wasn't sure if he'd make it to the Hall of Fame. His troubled life preceded him. When his son Michael Jr. asked after watching Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman inducted last year if his father ever make it, Irvin said he returned to God for his answer.
"My heart cried out. God, why must I go through so many peaks and valleys? I wanted to stand in front of my boys and do it like your Dad, like any proud Dad would want to. Why must I go through so much? And at that moment a voice came over me and he said, 'Look up, get up and don’t ever give up.' And you tell, you tell everyone or anyone, that has ever doubted, thought they did not measure up, or wanted to quit, you tell them to 'Look up, get up and don’t ever give up.'"

That's The Playmaker, folks. Love him or hate him, Michael Irvin is now a Hall of Famer.

Thank you, Michael, for the memories.

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