Troy Aikman played a number of big games for the Dallas Cowboys over the course of his 12-year NFL career. He helped the team to four straight NFC Championship Game appearances in the 1990s, three of which resulted in victories that helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls.
However, Aikman, who suffered a number of concussions throughout his career, has no memory of playing in the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers in January 1994, a game in which he sustained one of those concussions and was forced to leave.
Troy Aikman believes he suffered between six and eight concussions in his career with the Dallas Cowboys
Over the course of his 12-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, a career in which he threw for 36,791 yards and 188 touchdowns (regular season and playoffs combined), Troy Aikman believes he suffered somewhere between six and eight concussions, two of which he considered “severe.” At least that’s what he told Sports Illustrated back in 2015.
However, contrary to what many people believe, the six-time Pro Bowler said that it wasn’t the concussions that led him to retire following the 2000 season. Aikman has said on numerous occasions that it was chronic back issues that drove him away from the game.
However, there were still some very scary moments for Troy Aikman during his career as it pertains to concussions, one of which came in one of the biggest games of his life.
He had the best statistical year of his career for the Dallas Cowboys in 1993
In 1993, the Dallas Cowboys were coming off their first Super Bowl victory in 15 years and put themselves in position to repeat by going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the NFC East. Troy Aikman, who’d earned Super Bowl MVP honors the season before, had another great season and earned a second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl by throwing for 3,445 yards and 23 touchdowns, both of which would turn out to be career bests.
Aikman then helped the Cowboys, who’d earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, to a victory over the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, setting up a showdown with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year.
Troy Aikman has no memory of the NFC Championship Game in January 1994
The Dallas Cowboys jumped out to a big lead on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on January 23, 1994, and took a 28-7 advantage into halftime. Troy Aikman played fantastic football, completing 14 of 18 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
But on the third snap of the second half, Aikman took a knee to the head from Niners defensive end Dennis Brown and was forced out of the game. Bernie Kosar came on in relief and completed five of nine passes for 83 yards and a touchdown as Dallas held on for a 38-21 victory, earning them a second straight trip to the Super Bowl.
But Troy Aikman has no memory of that game whatsoever. His longtime agent, Leigh Steinberg, spoke on that NFC title game and the aftermath in the PBS documentary, League of Denial, and painted a very scary picture (h/t Washington Post).
“He looked at me and he said, ‘Leigh, where am I?’ And I said, ‘Well, you’re in the hospital.’ And he said, ‘Well, why am I here?’ And I said, ‘because you suffered a concussion today.’ And he said, ‘Well, who did we play?’ And I said, ‘The 49ers.’ And he said, ‘Did we win?’ ‘Yes, you won.’ ‘Did I play well?’ ‘Yes, you played well.’ ‘And so what’s that mean?’ ‘It means you’re going to the Super Bowl.’ “Leigh Steinberg
Steinberg went on to say that essentially the same conversation took place five minutes later and Troy Aikman himself confirmed that he had no memory of that NFC title game in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show in 2017. One week later (there was no off week before the Super Bowl that year), Aikman returned to the field and threw for 207 yards in the Cowboys’ 30-13 win over the Bills.
In the aforementioned SI article from 2015, Aikman, who has now worked for FOX as a broadcaster for nearly two decades, said that he once had his brain evaluated at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas and was told that he tested well, which has given him peace of mind.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference