He had made his mark, and now he wanted to build a house for himself. For months Troy Aikman scoured the countryside outside Dallas looking for the right piece of land, and when he found it he knew. This was the spot: a 30-acre tract offered by Ross Perot Jr., a natty square of God's country next to where Terry Bradshaw lived. How serendipitous this seemed. Bradshaw had accumulated four Super Bowl rings, Aikman two. But this wasn't what sold Aikman on the place. Here the trees grew thick and tall, and the earth rolled, and on clear nights you could see the magisterial city skyline 30 miles away.
Aikman hired an architect. One day they met to make plans in a room at the modish Valley Ranch complex where the Dallas Cowboys train. Modish wasn't what Aikman wanted, though. "I wanted part-California ranch and part-country," he says. "But nothing too ranch or too country." It was perfect, what they finally came up with. It covered 12,500 square feet of living area—big enough for a man who throws one of the best passes in the game. But in the end Aikman couldn't go through with it. In the end his reservations were too strong, and he backed away from the project.
The biggest problem was cost. Bids had run close to $4 million. He had the money, but what if his career suddenly ended or he decided to leave Dallas and make a home elsewhere? Who would buy the house? Who has money to spend on a house whose only statement is this: Troy Aikman Troy Aikman Troy Aikman...?
Then there was the second problem—more a consideration, actually, than a problem. Aikman wasn't married. He was 28 years old and single, and suppose he took on a wife and she didn't like the house? Suppose she favored Victorian, say, or Greek Revival or god knows what else? He refused to stick the woman he loved in a home that did not speak to her heart.
"I have an idea of marriage as being a sharing type of deal," Aikman says. "If I build a house, I want her involved. I want her to have some say in the decision."
He showed the plans to his best friend on the team, guard-center Dale Hellestrae. And Hellie was struck hard by what he saw. It was Aikman's dream house, but it was also anybody's dream house.
"Troy," Hellie said, "if she doesn't want to live in this thing, then, buddy...then maybe she's just not the right girl."
That Aikman would choose to conserve a few bucks is understandable, even commendable, but that he has been able to dodge marriage for this long is one of those mysteries that defy human comprehension. Aikman, who turned 29 in November, might be the most eligible bachelor to play in the NFL since Joe Willie Namath hung up his white cleats, and while this is an image for which many single men would sell their mortal souls, it isn't one Aikman much appreciates. He would rather have a wife and four kids.
"I really thought I'd be married by now," he says, "but that was because I dated the same girl for seven years. After we broke up I dated somebody else for a year and a half, and that ran into my rookie season. I was 22 my rookie year. If you had asked me then how old I'd be when I got married, I'd have said, 'Oh, 26, 27.' Well, here I am not even seriously involved with anybody."
It's his own fault, of course. "Troy," says Hellestrae, "has more opportunities with women than any man on this earth. But he's got his particular tastes, and he's not going to settle for anything below his sight level. He won't compromise. I've never tried to set him up, because I don't think I could find anyone who'd meet his qualifications."