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The Inside Track | Q & A WITH TROY AIKMAN

Costly Losses to USC Still Bothering Him

November 22, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Troy Aikman, now a football analyst for Fox, won three Super Bowls as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. As for his two games against USC when he was playing for UCLA in 1987 and '88, well, those were the ones that got away.

Question: Three Super Bowl rings, two bowl victories, a 20-4 record as a starter at UCLA, yet you never beat USC. Does that bother you?

Answer: What bothers me the most about my collegiate career is I didn't take the team to the Rose Bowl. Had we have won either one of those USC games, we would have gone to the Rose Bowl. My junior year, I thought we were the better team. It was 10-0 at halftime and we just had a complete collapse -- I had a complete collapse -- in the second half, and wound up losing that game at the Coliseum. My senior year, I thought SC had the better team, and we played better. We played a lot better in that game, but we couldn't get it done.

Q: If you could change a play in either of those games, what would it be?

A: Probably my junior year when we played at the Coliseum. The play that sticks out in my mind is [USC receiver Erik] Affholter caught a pass and he was out of bounds. It was ruled a touchdown. That had a huge impact on the outcome of the game. I'm not blaming the officials or anything; it happens, and there wasn't replay at the time. In fact, I'm an advocate of no replay in the NFL. But that was a game when it worked against me and our team.

Q: Why don't you like instant replay?

A: I think it slows the game. There's mistakes at every level, when you're talking about the players, the coaches. It happens with officials. I think for the most part they do an awfully good job. I think there are still flaws in the system. My thoughts are, if you can't get all the calls right all the time, you shouldn't have some of the calls right some of the time.

Q: What's a better future home for an NFL team, the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl?

A: I'm partial to the Rose Bowl. I not only played there in college, but I played there in our first Super Bowl. To me, there's nothing better than that. I'd be an advocate of saying they should play every Super Bowl there. I think it's as good a setting as there is.

Q: You had 10 concussions during your pro career. Is the NFL doing enough to protect quarterbacks?

A: I think they're doing everything they can do. It's a physical game. It's a vulnerable position, because so many times you don't see the hits coming because you're focused downfield. More so than any other position. I don't know what safeties are supposed to do. I think there are times when you can say, hey, this guy blatantly came in with the crown of the helmet and made helmet-to-helmet contact on a defenseless receiver. But I've seen calls made where guys are just going for the ball and making good plays. That's part of it. I think they've gone a little too far. I've said it -- and I don't mean it jokingly -- but if they don't want the helmet to be used as a weapon, they ought to go back to leather helmets.

Q: When Jay Fiedler went down, the Dolphins were flirting with the idea of signing you. How interested are you in coming out of retirement?

A: It could have happened. In fact, it could have happened as early as this week. But it wasn't right for me. Knowing that, and knowing I had some chances to come back and play if I wanted to do it, I think it's pretty safe to say I'm finished playing. I can't imagine anything changing that. Let's be honest, if someone came and made a substantial offer and really enticed me with something, then I could come back and play. I guess it would be easier for me to say, "Look, I'm done." And then if that ever happened, then just come back and say, "Well, this is why I came back."

Q: So you've still got something left?

A: When I retired I didn't intend to come back and play, and I still don't intend to come back and play, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't if I chose to do it. Because I'm still physically capable, and I'm young enough [36] that I could.

Q: What's so hard about giving up football?

A: It's hard on everybody on some level. It's something I've been doing since I was 7 years old. I'm fortunate in that when I retired I had something I could go right into. It has occupied a lot of my time. It's kept me busy. Most guys don't readily get into something that's challenging for them. They always kind of hang on to the playing days. I haven't done that. But there's no question that when we're done with a broadcast, and I put my headset on the table, it's over. It's over for me. I get in my car, go to the airport and go home. And I don't have any feelings whatsoever as to who won that game and who lost. I think the emotional part of it as an athlete is the thing that you miss. I miss the highs of winning, and I even miss the lows of losing at times.

Q: What should the Cowboys do about Emmitt Smith after this season?

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