"Asthma, my ass!" screamed Johnson. "This isn't the asthma field! The asthma field is over there!" Johnson had the fallen player removed from his sight.
Johnson and Aikman have known each other ever since Aikman was a sophomore at Henryetta (Okla.) High. Aikman made an oral commitment to attend Oklahoma State, at which Johnson was then the head coach, but Aikman ultimately accepted a scholarship to Oklahoma instead. Johnson was also present in Norman on the afternoon of Oct. 19, 1985, when Hurricane defensive tackle Jerome Brown broke Aikman's leg. Jamelle Holieway took over the starting job after that, and Aikman decided to transfer to UCLA, though Johnson tried to woo him to Miami. "Didn't like the city," says Aikman.
Aikman hardly behaves like a multimillionaire. Look in as he sits on the floor of his dorm's living room at the Cowboys' training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., leaning against a wall. The room has no chairs. Aikman's roommate, rookie fullback Daryl Johnston, is in the bedroom writing home, and Aikman doesn't want to disturb him. Aikman has been described as dull, but Laufenberg says he's misunderstood. "He's just shy," says Laufenberg.
Aikman didn't mind the quarterback school or the minicamps. In fact, he seems to have enjoyed them. "They were an opportunity to learn the offense in a relaxed atmosphere," he says.
The biggest difference Aikman has noticed between college and the pros is how much easier it is for NFL defensive backs to disguise their intentions. "Because the hash marks are narrower in the pros, the ball's always closer to the middle of the field," he says. "So if you're a defensive back, you can wait a lot longer before committing to a certain part of the field." As a result, NFL quarterbacks must read defenses as they drop back. "In college I was making a lot of presnap reads," says Aikman. "It was much easier."
In passing situations, NFL defensive coordinators will put in seven or even eight players in the defensive backfield. "You've got two seconds to find the receiver who is in single coverage," says Laufenberg. "If you don't, you're on your back. So far Troy's making all the right reads."
As is his competition. After those first couple of shaky practices, Walsh narrowed the gap between himself and Aikman with startling quickness. Johnson seemed unconcerned by Walsh's 2-for-8 performance on Sunday. "We stuck him with tough field position, and he played with a lot of second-teamers," said Johnson. "Steve will get the whole first half next week. He'll bounce back."
Is the quarterback competition still a dead heat? "Absolutely," he said.
Although it might not happen soon enough to suit Cowboy fans, Aikman or Walsh will eventually help Dallas regain its winning ways. Which one of them will it be? Ultimately, it doesn't matter which. Money's money.