Troy Aikman’s Broken Leg Changed His Football Career for the Better

Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls as the Cowboys’ quarterback in the ’90s. He’s subsequently enjoyed a long career as a top NFL broadcaster. But his pro football career may have turned out differently if things didn’t go wrong in college. Aikman suffered a broken leg as a college quarterback.

This injury may have set him up for the path that ultimately turned him into a household name. Here’s how the injury changed Aikman’s career for the better.

Troy Aikman’s career at Oklahoma

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Aikman was born in California but spent his teen years in Oklahoma. So it’s not surprising that he chose to attend the University of Oklahoma and play quarterback under coach Barry Switzer. He started as a freshman in 1984, becoming the first freshman at the school to do that since World War II.

In 1985, reports Athlon, Aikman broke his leg in the game against Miami. His backup, Jamelle Holieway, stepped into the starter’s job and led the Sooners to the national championship. After that, Switzer helped Aikman transfer to UCLA, which may have helped set him on the path to being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Aikman transfers to UCLA

UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman runs with the ball
UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman runs with the ball | Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Aikman wasn’t really a good fit for Oklahoma’s offense; he committed to the school when it ran the I-formation, but the team had switched back to the wishbone when he was starting. Aikman’s skills were better suited by UCLA’s offensive attack — and it showed in his on-field performance with the Bruins.

The QB threw for just under 5,300 yards in his two seasons at UCLA, with 41 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions. He was a consensus All-American while playing for the Bruins, and he won the Davey O’Brien Award in 1988, which is awarded to the best quarterback in the NCAA. The Cowboys then took Aikman with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft.

Aikman’s Hall of Fame NFL career

Aikman justified the Cowboys using the top draft pick on him. He spent his entire 12-year career with the team. The QB led the Cowboys to five straight division titles from 1992-1996 and six overall; he also helped lead them to three Super Bowl titles, and Aikman was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII.

He finished his career with nearly 33,000 passing yards and 165 touchdowns, with 141 interceptions. Aikman was a six-time Pro Bowler, He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, solidifying him as one of the top quarterbacks of his era.

Aikman’s post-NFL career

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Aikman has stayed in the game after his 2000 retirement, immediately jumping into the broadcast booth. He became a game analyst for Fox’s NFL coverage in the 2001 season. Ever since then, he’s been with the network.

It took just one year as a broadcaster for Aikman to get promoted to Fox’s top broadcast team, working with Joe Buck and Cris Collinsworth from 2002-04, then forming a two-man booth with Buck after Collinsworth left Fox. The highlights of Aikman’s broadcasting career include working six Super Bowls and winning a Sports Emmy in 2004.

Unsurprisingly, given his Emmy win, Aikman is considered to be among the best NFL analysts working today. In addition to broadcasting, Aikman has served as a spokesman for many products, including Nike, Miller Lite, and Rent-A-Center. In 2006, Aikman started a NASCAR team, Hall of Fame Racing, along with another former Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubach.