- Birth Details
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One of 22 children, Irvin was a football star at Fort Lauderdale'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 University of Miami team 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.
Irvin was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, with the 11th selection in the first round of the 1988 NFL draft. His flashy and rebellious style fit in well 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. 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. Sex, drugs and injuries In March of 1996, Irvin was arrested on charges of cocaine possession at a hotel party celebrating his 30th birthday. After numerous court appearances amid a national media circus, he pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to community service, ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, and put on 4-years probation. When drug tested for the illicit drugs, he tested negative. But the NFL suspended Irvin for the first five games of the 1996 season. Irvin was also known as a regular at the "White House", a private pleasure palace near the team's training facility, where he and some Dallas teammates, like lineman Nate Newton, allegedly enjoyed a variety of wanton activities, including drugs and illicit sex. 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. Irvin sustained even further (unwarranted) damage to his reputation when controversy reared 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 Williams' and 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 and faced charges of perjury, but the damage had already been done. 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. As Irvin lay motionless on the Veterans Stadium field, he was famously greeted by hostile applause from fans of the rival Philadelphia Eagles, 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. NFL records and other honors Irvin finished his career with 750 receptions (10th all-time in the NFL) for 11,904 yards (9th all-time in the NFL) and 65 touchdowns. He was selected to five Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls. Irvin became eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Though he was not selected in 2005 or 2006, he is expected to eventually gain entry, capping his designation as one of the game's greatest receivers. 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. For Dallas, Irvin was a vocal, emotional leader, who set every significant career receiving mark in team history, such as catches, receiving yards, and 100-yard games (47), including a team-record seven in a row in 1991. Despite his "playmaker" style on the field and flashy personality that is still evident today in his animated, brash commentary as a top NFL analyst for ESPN, Irvin is most remembered by his fellow Cowboys as a consummate teammate. As Fox's Daryl Johnston told a national conference call: "Michael was the hardest working guy on our team. ... He was a guy who made some wrong decisions, but he never took anything public, and he never spoke out against anyone on our team. He wasn't a problem. He was more of an inspiration." Along with his former Cowboy teammates Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, Irvin was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor on September 19, 2005.
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