Irvin was self-nicknamed “The Playmaker” due to his penchant for making big plays in big games during his college and pro career. He played college football at the University of Miami. In 2007, he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Irvin was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 11th selection in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft. He was the last first-round draft pick made by the Cowboys under the leadership of long-time general manager Tex Schramm, player personnel director Gil Brandt, and coach Tom Landry (Schramm predicted that Irvin would accelerate the Cowboys’ “return to the living”). Irvin became the first rookie receiver in Cowboys’ history to start a game in 20 years, in which he caught his first touchdown the same game. Also as a rookie, Irvin caught 3 touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ win over Washington, one of only three wins that season and the final win of Tom Landry’s career. He finished his rookie season with a 20.4 yards per catch average, which led the NFC.
The Cowboys misfortunes continued the following year as they finished with a 1–15 record, the worst in franchise history, while injuries limited Irvin to only six games. But under the strength of new players such as Jay Novacek, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith, the team began to improve. They finished the 1990 season 7–9, and then recorded an 11–5 record in 1991. Irvin was a major reason for their playoff season of 1991, finishing with 93 receptions, an NFL-best 1,523 yards, and 8 touchdowns. He made the All-Pro team that year and was selected to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls.
From 1991 through 1998, Irvin recorded 1,000-yard seasons in all but one year, racking up an impressive 10,265 yards over an eight-year span. Along the way, the Cowboys made four straight appearances in the NFC Championship Game (1992–1995) and captured three Super Bowl titles with back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. His best season was in 1995, when he set Dallas records for receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,603), while also scoring 10 touchdowns and setting an NFL record with 11 games with over 100 yards receiving. He added seven receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game en route to the Cowboys’ third Super Bowl win in a span of four seasons.
Irvin is the only player to play for each of the first four Cowboys coaches since the team has been owned by Jerry Jones (Landry, Johnson, Barry Switzer and Chan Gailey). Irvin officially announced his retirement after Dave Campo became the fifth Cowboys coach, but Irvin never played on the field for Campo.
The Cowboys have been in eight Super Bowls; Irvin played in three of them, all of which Dallas won.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes… the Playmaker…Michael Irvin.
|Career highlights and awards|
Career NFL statistics