"They used to just say his name," says Rich Dalrymple, director of public relations for the Cowboys. "They'd shout, 'Hey, Troy; hey, Troy!' And some might have their I LOVE YOU TROY signs. But now they're doing things I'd never seen before. We were in San Diego on October 15, and as we were walking into the stadium there were some girls who started jumping up and down and screaming and crying. It was like they'd seen a rock star. Elvis."
Before everything changed for him, Aikman used to drop by Little League ball fields and watch the kids play. It didn't matter that he knew none of them. He liked being out in the air and witnessing the drama. But he stopped once the mobs started finding him. For the same reason, he can't waste an afternoon shopping at the mall. Now when he wants to pick up some new clothes, he arranges for a local department store to open up after business hours. That way he can browse the aisles without fear of attack by hysterical autograph hounds and by women who want to introduce him to their daughters. Likewise, Aikman does his grocery shopping by E-mail, not wishing to risk life and limb by visiting the local supermarket.
When he does venture out on the town, it's usually with an off-duty cop dressed in plain clothes. This became a necessity four years ago, during Aikman's first Super Bowl run, when more than a few stalkers made him the object of their fixation. If a star's popularity is measured by the number of stalkers he attracts, then Aikman has few peers, at least in the NFL. One man has sent him engagement rings. And there are women. "One has been put in jail for coming to social events I've attended and trying to get to me," Aikman says. "There haven't been any death threats, but these people are obviously unbalanced. Some have said they were going to get me because I stood them up. One woman said I'd turned her into a prostitute. She vowed to get even. What that means, I'm not sure."
What it doesn't mean is that he is going to take any sudden detours. Aikman is as visible a player as there is in the game right now. Last season he wrote an autobiographical children's book, Things Change, which sold an astounding 200,000 copies. Aikman's besuited figure has graced the cover of GQ. He has appeared on Letterman and Leno and Regis and Kathie Lee. He was a presenter at the Country Music Awards in 1993 and ESPN's Espy Awards in 1994. He played himself on the TV sitcom Coach. He did Oprah, too.
"Yeah," he says, "Oprah. I was told it was going to be myself and a couple of other athletes and some soap opera girls. We were going to talk about the parallels in our careers. Not until I got on the set did they inform us that we were playing the Dating Game. It was one of those matchmaking things. I wasn't happy."
"You know what Troy's looking for?" says Dalrymple. "My wife says this: a woman who looks like Cindy Crawford and acts like his mother."
Aikman had a much-publicized dalliance with country singer Lorrie Morgan. He and actress Sandra Bullock "communicated a few times but never dated," he says. He's a friend of TV star Janine Turner but "nothing more than that." And anything you might hear about Aikman and ice skater Nancy Kerrigan probably is a fabrication. "We've never even spoken," Aikman says, though he did send Kerrigan a telegram in 1994 after she was assaulted at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Aikman had received letters and telegrams from celebrities after he and the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl in 1993, and it struck him as a classy thing to do. He thought he would reach out to others in the same way.
"I just called Verna [Riddles], who works for me, and said, 'Hey, would you send Nancy Kerrigan a telegram wishing her luck in the Olympics?' " Aikman says. That was the extent or it. But then Nancy announced at a press conference that she received a telegram from me, and the next thing you know they're talking about it in the tabloids, saying I'm sending her roses, and her fiancé is upset. I thought, Whoa, you've got to be kidding me."
Later, when he sent a telegram to the Baltimore Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. to congratulate him for breaking Lou Gehrig's record, the tabloids didn't print a word about it. But then, on top of being a guy, Ripken is married, with children.
"I don't like being linked to all these people," Aikman says. "But I guess I've gotten to where I don't let it bother me. One day I'm going to meet somebody I want to marry, and I'll have to explain all this stuff. I don't want her to say, 'Heck, I'm not going out with him, he's already dated all these people,' when the truth is I haven't even met them."