Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Michael Irvin (born March 5, 1966 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) is a former American football star known for a dyrnamic, record-setting football career, but also for widely-publicized run-ins with the law that spotted his reputation as one of the most successful wide receivers in the history of the National Football League.
1980s University of Miami star
One of 17 children, Irvin was a football star at Miami's St. Thomas Aquinas high school and was heavily recruited by the University of Miami, one of the top collegiate football programs in the nation. With the University of Miami, under coach Jimmy Johnson, Irvin set school records for receptions (143), receiving yards (2,423) and touchdown receptions (26). He was part of the University of Miami's National Championship team of 1987.
Drafted by Dallas
In a class rich with talented wide receivers, Irvin was taken 11th overall in the first round of the 1988 NFL draft. He was the last first round pick of Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. Despite injuries, Irvin led the National Football Conference with a 20.4 yards per catch average in his rookie season. In 1989, Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and fired Landry. Irvin was then re-united with Jimmy Johnson, who Jones brought in to coach the Cowboys.
Irvin's flashy and rebellious style fit in at the University of Miami, but it quickly drew intrigue and controversy in conservative Dallas. He referred to himself as "The Playmaker." He parked his sports car in "No Parking" zones during Cowboys' training camp. And he visited Dallas strip clubs with regularity, and was known for socializing with strippers (despite being married).
On the field, injuries hampered Irvin's development in 1989 and 1990. But in 1991, he led the NFL with 1,523 yards receiving and set a Cowboys record with 93 receptions. Along with NFL rushing champion Emmitt Smith, they became the first pair of teammates to lead the NFL in both rushing and receiving yardage.
Winning Super Bowls in the 1990s
In 1992 and 1993, Irvin was a key player on the Cowboys' first two Super Bowl teams. In 1994, he enjoyed another stellar campaign with his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl season, but that year the Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. For his part, however, Irvin had one of the most productive games in NFL playoff history, with 12 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
In 1995, Irvin set an NFL record by recording 11 straight 100-yard games receiving. He broke his own team records with career highs in receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,603). Dallas steamrolled through the playoffs and, that year, Irvin was a Super Bowl champion for the third time.
Cocaine arrest, assault allegation, career-ending injury
In March of 1996, Irvin was arrested on charges of cocaine possession at a hotel party celebrating his 30th birthday. He pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to community service and probation. The NFL suspended Irvin for the first five games of the 1996 season.
In Irvin's 1996 absence, the Cowboys struggled out of the gate and never recovered. Upon his return from suspension, Irvin tallied 962 receiving yards in only 11 games.
Controversy would rear its head again as the Cowboys played the Carolina Panthers for their NFC Divisional Playoff game. Media reports stated that Irvin and teammate Erik Williams had sexually assaulted a woman and, with a gun to her head, videotaped the interaction. Despite Irvin's denials of the allegations, the story overshadowed the game, which the Cowboys lost. The accuser was later proven to have fabricated the entire incident, but Irvin sustained even further damage to his reputation.
Midway through the playoff game with Carolina, Irvin left the playoff game with a broken collarbone.
Irvin had solid years in 1997 and 1998. During the fifth game of the 1999 season, however, Irvin was tackled hard at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles. As Irvin layed motionless on the Veterans Stadium field, he was famously greeted by hostile applause from Philadelphia fans, who had grown to dislike Irvin and the entire Cowboys' organization.
The play in Philadelphia proved to be Irvin's last. The Dallas wide receiver sustained a non-threatening spinal cord injury and was subsequently diagnosed with a narrow spinal column, which forced him into early retirement.
Irvin finished his career with 750 receptions (10th all-time in the NFL) for 11,904 yards (ninth all-time in the NFL) and 65 touchdowns. He was selected to five Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls. Irvin is expected to ultimately enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he became eligible for induction in 2005 but was not inducted; he is expected to ultimately gain entry however.
At 6'2" and 205 pounds, Irvin was a big, physical receiver who manhandled cornerbacks and often was able to make tough catches in defensive traffic. In part because of Irvin's ability to push off the defender with such ease, the NFL eventually changed its rules to adjust to wide receivers who emulated Irvin's physical style.
After the NFL
A year following his retirement from the NFL, Irvin again was arrested on drug possession charges. In this case, Irvin was in a Dallas apartment with an unrelated female. Neither answered the door when police drug task force agents arrived with a search warrant. Police entered the apartment forceably, finding drugs. Irvin and the female were placed under arrest, though charges against Irvin were never brought.
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