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The End Zone
Let's get one thing straight about Cowboy wideout Michael Irvin: He wants the ball. He wants it thrown to him often, and he wants it thrown to him now. That's the way he has wanted it since arriving in Dallas as a rookie in 1988, and finally it's happening. In the Cowboys' 26-23 overtime loss to the Oilers on Sunday, he made seven catches to raise his season total to 53—best in the NFC.
On draft day in '88, after being the 11th player picked, Irvin looked into the Dallas TV cameras and said, "Go tell [Cowboy quarterback] Danny White I'm going to put him in the Pro Bowl." But Irvin had only 78 catches in his first three seasons, and he missed a total of 14 games in '89 and '90 while on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. So, entering this season, his career had been a disappointment. All he had done was confirm the reputation he had earned at the University of Miami as a big mouth, because he was—and still is—a great interview.
"I don't doubt that's what people thought of me," says Irvin, "but I've been hurt, and I've been through three offensive coordinators and three different offenses in four seasons. Now I've got an offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, who from Day One this year told me he believed in me, and I've got a great quarterback, Troy Aikman, who's really made a difference in my game. Troy knows that all he has to do is put the ball in my vicinity and I'll go get it."
Irvin runs the 40 in a mediocre 4.55, and he's almost slight, at 6'2" and 199 pounds. "Other guys have better numbers and skill, and people in the league like to evaluate a player on numbers," says Turner. "But Michael believes he is a great football player, so that's what he makes himself. He goes out and proves it every week."
Last season, when Irvin lined up in only his fifth game after having undergone knee surgery, Jet cornerback James Hasty looked at him and snarled, "Michael Irvin! I've been waiting for this day all season!"
"What have you been waiting for?" Irvin replied. "A butt-whipping?" He went out and caught four passes for 93 yards.