Michael Irvin Biography

Athlete, Football Player, Television Personality (1966–)
Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin helped lead the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the early 1990s.


Born on March 5, 1966, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, football wide receiver Michael Irvin was a gifted high school athlete. The heavily recruited Irvin attended the University of Miami, where he set several school records. In 1988, the Dallas Cowboys selected Irvin in the first round of the NFL draft. He led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in a Hall of Fame career that ended in 1999.

Early Career

Considered one of the most charismatic and talented receivers in NFL history, Michael Jerome Irvin was born on March 5, 1966 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He hailed from a large household. His father, Walter had two children from a previous marriage, his mother, Pearl, another six. Together, they had nine more kids, including Michael, the third youngest of the group.

While the Irvins never had much money, Walter and Pearl knew how to stretch their dollars and their food, not to mention their cramped, two-bedroom home space. A gifted athlete, Michael Irvin also ran with the wrong crowd and in his sophomore year of high school, he was suspended for disciplinary reasons. As a result, Walter Irvin moved his son to St. Thomas Aquinas, a private Catholic school, where Irvin soon blossomed, both in the classroom and on the athletic field.

But struggle still played a role in Irvin's life. During his senior year, Irvin's father lost his battle with cancer. Convinced that his father's hard working routine had played a role in Walter's death, Irvin told those around him that he'd make sure nobody in his family would have to struggle again. 

Star Career

For Irvin, football became his outlet and his family's ticket out of poverty. After a dazzling high school career at St. Thomas, the heavily recruited Irvin enrolled at the University of Miami. There, under coach Jimmy Johnson, the flashy, but immensely talented wide receiver set school records for career receptions and receiving yards. He also led the school to a national title.

As a result of Irvin's stellar college career, the Dallas Cowboys selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 1988 NFL draft. Along with quarterback, Troy Aikman, and running back, Emmitt Smith, Irvin recharged what had been a struggling franchise into a perennial title contender and three-time Super Bowl winner in the span of four years during the early 1990s. Over the course of his 12-year career, Irvin registered 750 catches and 11,904, both good for ninth all-time in NFL history. With his flashiness, bravado and ability to make so many big catches, he earned the nickname "The Playmaker."

Irvin also had his scuffles with the law: In 1996, police arrested him in a motel room drug bust. Irvin pleaded "no contest" and was never charged with the crime, though he did serve 800 hours of community service. Other incidents followed, including a strange transgression where Irvin cut the neck of a teammate as they horsed around just prior to a haircut.

Irvin's football career came to end in 1999, following a spinal injury that temporarily left him paralyzed. Eight years later, in 2007, Irvin was voted into the Football Hall of Fame.

Later Years

Following his departure from the game, the charismatic Irvin jumped into the broadcast booth. He has worked for ESPN and, more recently, the NFL Network.

In 2009, Irvin competed on ABC's dance-competition program Dancing with the Stars. Irvin and his partner, Anna Demidova, made it to the seventh week before being voted off of the program.

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