Wide receiver Michael Irvin joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1988, following a stellar collegiate football career with the Miami Hurricanes. Selected as the 11th player overall in the first round of the 1988 National Football League Draft, Irvin quickly developed into one of the elite receivers in Cowboys and NFL history.
As a rookie, Irvin offered a glimpse of what was to follow during his 12-season career with the Cowboys. He became the first rookie wide receiver to start a season opener for Dallas in more than 20 years. He caught his first of 65 career touchdowns in that game. Irvin’s 20.4 yard per catch average during his rookie year led the NFC.
Early in his career, Irvin and the Cowboys suffered through some lean years. The team finished 3-13 during Irvin’s first season and then fell to 1-15 the following year. The team’s misfortunes would not last long. Help came first in 1989 with the addition of quarterback Troy Aikman and then in 1990 with the drafting of running back Emmitt Smith. The two players complemented Irvin’s talents and bolstered the Cowboys’ offense.
Almost instantly, the team became a contender and Irvin’s play, which rose to a new level, was a major factor. In 1991, he helped the Cowboys to an 11-5 record and a return to the playoffs by hauling in 93 passes for a league-leading 1,523 yards and 8 touchdowns. He received consensus All-Pro honors that year and earned the first of five straight Pro Bowl trips.
From 1991 through 1998, Irvin recorded 1,000-yard seasons in all but one year. Along the way, the Cowboys made four straight appearances in the NFC championship game (1992-1995) and captured three Super Bowl titles with back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
In 1995, Irvin recorded his finest season as he caught 111 passes for 1,603 yards. He also established an NFL record with eleven 100-yard games, and scored 10 touchdowns. His outstanding play continued during that year’s post-season. In the Cowboys’ 38-27 win over the Green Bay Packers in the 1995 NFC Championship Game, Irvin had seven receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He capped off the year with five catches for 76 yards in Dallas’s 27-17 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
In all, Irvin accumulated 750 receptions for 11,904 yards. A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, he had 100 or more yards receiving in a game forty-seven times during his 159-game career.