When he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin was a confident, fearless 6 feet 2 inches, 207 pounds. He called himself The Playmaker and lived up to his name, actually forcing the NFL to change their rules so that defenses could more effectively control tough, physical receivers like Michael Irvin. In an offense built around the preeminent running talents of Running Back, Emmit Smith, and the arm of Quarterback, Troy Aikman, Irvin’s play still stood out as remarkable. He accumulated over 11,000 yards receiving, 750 catches and 65 touchdowns and 5 trips to the Pro Bowl and 3 Super Bowl Championships.
In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Irvin spoke fondly of those on the field accomplishments. However, that wasn’t what made his speech remarkable or even memorable. It was what he said about being a father and being a man that made his speech special. It is why I have included him here as the first of my Heroes & Villains posts.
Michael Irvin has been arrested for possession of cocaine, often frequented a house of prostitution, was accused of assault, was falsely accused of sexual assault and was found in possession of a crack pipe. Where he had found it easy to succeed as a football player, Michael Irvin found it hard to succeed as a man: a good man, an honorable man. He had spent a career bringing glory to himself and his induction ceremony was a celebration of that career. In a move that showed tremendous self awareness and unforeseen humility, he chose his Hall of Fame induction speech to speaking plainly with humility and vulnerability about his failures and fears.
“You know the Bible speaks of a healing place. It's called a threshing floor. The threshing floor is where you take your greatest fear and you pray for help from your great God. I have two sons. Michael, he's 10, and Elijah, he's 8. When I am on that threshing floor, I pray. I say, ‘God, I have my struggles and I made some bad decisions, but whatever you do, whatever you do, don't let me mess this up.’ I say, ‘Please, help me raise them for some young lady so that they can be a better husband than I. Help me raise them for their kids so that they could be a better father than I’. And I tell you guys to always do the right thing so you can be a better role model than (I).”
To stand before your family, friends, teammates, fans and a worldwide audience of millions and profess your sins and fears in courageous. Acting like the man he wants his sons to be would make Michael Irvin a true man of courage and we wish him the best in that endeavor.