Despite some reports back then that he left his playing days behind due to the number of concussions he suffered during his career, which thankfully haven’t caused a serious problem for the Hall of Famer, Aikman actually retired due to persistent back issues.
Two years before he retired, however, Troy Aikman went through another health scare that not as many people knew about, one he really wasn’t comfortable talking about for a long time.
Troy Aikman played 12 years for the Dallas Cowboys
For those who may not be old enough to remember Troy Aikman’s playing days with the Dallas Cowboys, do yourself a favor and go back and watch some video.
Drafted No. 1 overall in the 1989 NFL draft, Aikman and the Cowboys struggled to a 1-15 record in his rookie year, which was also Jerry Jones‘ first year as the owner and Jimmy Johnson’s first year as head coach, at least at the pro level.
But little by little, the franchise began to add pieces around Aikman and the Cowboys became the most dominant team in the NFL just a few years later. Dallas won three Super Bowls titles in four years in the early-to-mid 1990s and Aikman won Super Bowl MVP in the Cowboys’ first title game victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Troy Aikman had 90 wins as a starting quarterback in the 1990s, the third-most of any quarterback in any decade, and once made six consecutive appearances in the Pro Bowl. The former UCLA star was hindered by injuries in his final years in Dallas but still holds numerous franchise records. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and is also a member of the famed Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Troy Aikman was diagnosed with stage two melanoma in 1998
In 1998, Troy Aikman was getting out of the shower and noticed a dark spot on the back of his shoulder that he’d never seen before. He didn’t think too much of it initially but during a family trip to Hawaii a couple of weeks later, he asked his sisters, both of whom are nurses, about it and they recommended he get it checked out as soon as possible.
Aikman went to the dermatologist a short time later and was told he had stage two melanoma. Luckily, it was discovered before the cancer had gotten a chance to spread and he was able to avoid radiation or chemotherapy but his doctors told him just how serious things could have gotten and that he needed to take better precautions while out in the sun, the same advice Aikman has been giving people for the last few years now.
He stayed relatively quiet on his diagnosis for close to two decades
Following his diagnosis in 1998, Troy Aikman did a few interviews in Dallas about how he’d had the biopsy done but it somehow never became a very big story. In an interview with People in 2016, Aikman said that his “melanoma experience was very personal” and that he wasn’t overly interested in sharing his story for the longest time.
But as the years went by, he began to become more aware of just how many lives are affected and lost by melanoma each and every year. One of those people was his good friend and longtime NFL assistant coach Jim Johnson (not the Dallas Cowboys head coach), who announced in January 2009 that he was undergoing treatment for melanoma. Sadly, his cancer advanced and he passed away just six months later.
In the years since his diagnosis, Aikman has gotten a checkup every six months or so and while he’s had some suspicious growths frozen off, as he told Healthline, no further melanoma spots have been found. After years of keeping his diagnosis a relative secret, he joined up with Novartis, a global healthcare company, for the “Melanoma Just Got Personal” campaign around the time he shared his story with People and has continued to share that story in the years since in an effort to raise awareness on skin cancer.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference