My favourite gridiron football player (National Football League) has always been Troy Aikman. Others like Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Kurt Warner, Randy Moss, and Marc Bulger have occupied my interest but I still rate Aikman as being higher than any of the others. He was the reason I started watching the NFL during the mid-90's.
This past weekend, at the early age of 39, Aikman was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame on his first attempt. While his numbers are not as gaudy as John Elway, Brett Favre or Dan Marino, I have no doubt that he belongs there with them. He was known for his clutch play (not as impressive as Joe Montana or Tom Brady but close enough) and ability to stay calm under the most intense of rushes.
Here is a nice piece about the man, his main accomplishments, and how he got to where he is today.
Not surprisingly, there is a set of individuals who feel that Aikman benefited from the system he was in, the players he was surrounded with, and most crucially, good fortune. Here is a typical article that espouses this point of view, this time by Skip Bayless.
I don't mind the other point of view, actually. Those folks are entitled to their opinion as much as I am entitled to mine, especially as they make some very relevant points along the way.
What I find interesting is the cause-and-effect aspect of all this. Was Aikman lucky that he was surrounded by talent? Or was his presence the glue that made the talent stand out? If he had played on another team, would he have won so many games? Or conversely, would he have been touted as the hero who turned the fortunes of a different franchise by his play? We can never separate the two entities and discussion like this will go on forever.
Either way, Aikman is rightly in the Hall of Fame and I am glad I got to see over half of his glory years at the helm of the dominant Cowboy team.