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No Rhinestone Cowboy : Aikman, the Blue-Collar Kid From Henryetta, Okla., Is in the Spotlight Today, but It Won't Make Him Blink

January 31, 1993|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Henryetta High, home of the Fighting Hens, is located at 1800 Troy Aikman Ave.

Look for the school, however, because there is no street sign.

"Keeps getting stolen," said Rick Enis, school principal. "We've had it embedded in a brick column with eight to 10 bolts, the heads stripped to keep them from being pried out, but it's gone."

Kids will be kids.

"No, probably their parents," Enis said. "I wouldn't mind having it myself."

Aikmania. Today, the Henryetta High booster club has rented the Oklahoma town's Civic Center, where local youngsters will gather for free refreshments to watch, on a large-screen TV, one of their own play in the Super Bowl.

Mike Capps' fast-food restaurant on Main Street, which doubles as the Troy Aikman Museum--complete with his PeeWee football uniform--will have one TV for customers and another for the cooks.

Stories will be told. "I remember when he was a sophomore," Enis said, "and Troy's in this typing contest at Okmulgee State Tech. Thirty-eight contestants, 37 of them are girls. And Troy wins."

Aikmania. "Saw his first touchdown pass," said John Walker, football coach at Henryetta. "I was a senior and he was a sophomore. There were less than two minutes remaining and he throws a 60-yard touchdown pass to Marty Tabor, and we beat Checotah High School, 14-6."

Jeremy Dombek, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior and the first quarterback for the Hens since Aikman to

win a college scholarship, will hear it again and again today: Listen, son, that could be you some day.

The Huckleberry Restaurant, which normally uses its sign overlooking I-40 to advertise the luncheon buffet, has posted instead: "We're behind you all the way, Troy."

The last $10,000 needed to complete the $150,000 Troy Aikman Fitness Center for the benefit of the town's youngsters will probably come rolling in now, while across the country, Alice Ghostley, one of the stars of "Designing Women," will be telling anyone who will listen, "You know, Troy Aikman and I went to the same high school."

The Henryetta Daily Free-Lance dedicated the entire newspaper to Aikman on Wednesday, announcing that Aikman had been chosen as "Henryettan of the Year."

"I don't know anybody in town who would say a harsh word about Troy," Walker said, "and if we did find anybody, I don't know if they'd get out of town alive."

Hollywood hires guys like Troy Aikman to play Troy Aikman. John Wayne starring as John Wayne.

"He's got that Oklahoma cool," former NFL quarterback Dan Fouts said. "He reminds me of Mickey Mantle. He looks a little like him facially, and he's unflappable."

Five days this week, Aikman sat before reporters, answering their questions with the assurance of someone who has no need to impress.

"What I am is a direct result of how I was raised," Aikman said. "I don't understand why guys want to be controversial and in the press all the time. It's just not my nature."

Family and friends dominate his time.

"His father is a blue-collar guy, and he instilled that in Troy pretty early on," said Babe Laufenberg, friend and former teammate. "It was a men-don't-cry type of thing, and he's got that in him."

Aikman's roots run deep, all the way back to Henryetta. He is small-town comfortable in a high-profile job. First chance to escape Dallas--as he did during the regular-season bye week--he was in the stands watching the Hens play.

"I got the chance to play in a pickup basketball game with him in Henryetta before the season," Dombek said. "He was just a normal guy."

Former Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach said recently a quarterback needs charisma to be effective. But Aikman's appeal is understated.

"Troy is so quiet," Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway said. "I've talked to him, but I don't know if I've ever heard him say anything."

Turn off the lights, turn on the spotlight--Aikman doesn't blink.

"Nothing fazes him," teammate Daryl Johnston said. "The way he practices, the way he carries himself, the way he handles the media, the time he spends with charity--he handles it all so calmly."

The cowboy boots and jeans fit Garth Brooks' pal, who played Cowboy Joe in a video for Shenandoah, a musical group he came to enjoy while at Billy Bob's in Ft. Worth.

"That's probably the biggest misconception about Troy," said Doug Kline, a teammate at UCLA and one of Aikman's closest friends in Dallas. "He's not just a drawled-out country boy who just got done feeding the cows, even though he still drives a pickup.

"This is a super-intelligent person who is just quiet until you get to know him. I'm from Colorado, Tom Whiteknight is from Kansas and Troy is from Oklahoma, and we were used to a slower pace, being from the Midwest. We hung together at UCLA, we all liked country music and now we're all in Dallas together.

"Troy took Tom and his wife and me and my girlfriend to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii last year. He paid for the whole thing. He likes to have his buddies around him."

When Aikman appears in Dallas, he draws a crowd.

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