Today, Dallas Cowboys legendary wide receiver Michael Irvin turns fifty-five years old. Thirty years ago, he led the NFL in receiving yards, went to the Pro Bowl, and made the First-Team All-Pro selection. He also led the Cowboys to some of their most successful years in franchise history. Let’s take a look back at his career.
Michael Irvin Hall of Fame Career
Michael Irvin attended the University of Miami in the 1980s where he made a name for himself. With his immense swagger, over-the-top confidence, and equally as impressive talent, he caught the eyes of NFL scouts everywhere. In Miami, however, Irvin broke almost every school record a receiver could break. At one point, he held the record for most receiving yards, most receptions, and most receiving touchdowns in school history. Santana Moss, however, went on to break his record in receiving yards.
Michael Irvin also won a championship in Miami in 1987 before declaring for the NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys, coming off of an abysmal season, selected Irvin in the first round. Irvin did not take long to start making a difference at the Cowboys, both in the locker room and on the field. He caught his first touchdown pass in his first game with the Cowboys and became the first wide receiver to start opening day in twenty years for the Cowboys.
However, injuries and poor coaching marred the first few seasons of Michael Irvin’s career. It wasn’t until the 1990 season that the Cowboys dynasty started to form. After the Herschel Walker trade and the addition of superstars like Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys started to improve astronomically. By 1991, behind Michael Irvin’s leadership, the Cowboys were an 11-5 playoff team. That year Irvin led the league in reception yards and made the Pro Bowl as well as the All-Pro team. He would go on to make the Pro Bowl for the next five years in a row.
The Super Bowl Years
The 1990s were the Super Bowl years for the Dallas Cowboys. Between 1992 and 1995, the franchise won three Super Bowls and made it to the NFC Championship each year. Again, Michael Irvin had a lot to do with this immense amount of success. For instance, in 1995 he set the franchise record for receptions with 111, in receiving yards with 1,603, and led the NFL with 11 games over 100 yards receiving. The Cowboys would defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl that season.
However, after some fairly successful seasons in ’97 and ’98, Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending injury. After a Philadelphia Eagles defensive back tackled him into the turf, Irvin suffered a spinal injury that forced him into early retirement. Despite the premature end to his career, Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in 2007.
Big Player, Big Personality
Michael Irvin was known as much for his out-of-this-world personality as he was for his on-the-field greatness. However, he never failed to back up his confidence with results. Put together, Irvin became the most entertaining player to watch of his generation.
His flame and passion as a player also ushered in a new generation of confident and fiery receivers such as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Johnson. Those names along with Michael Irvin went on to entertain the NFL for years to come. I think we can all agree that the league became much more fun to watch because of it.
Michael Irvin remains one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, and certainly a candidate for the best in Dallas Cowboys history. Happy birthday to the Hall of Fame legend.