The Best Damn Rehabilitation to ESPN

In the last half of his career in Dallas, Michael Irvin would seemingly be on the front page of the newspaper just as much as he was in the sports pages. Which wasn't a good thing. Starting in 1996, after helping lead the Cowboys to their third Super Bowl win in four years, Irvin would continuously be entangled in highly public run-in's with the law.

He may have been deprived as a youngster, but as a superstar athlete he indulged in a life of decadence and excess. Stories of women, drinking, drugs and an infamous 'White House' would be headline news across the country. Bottom line, he got 'caught up'.

An assassination attempt on his life added to the hysteria in the midst of all his troubles. Irvin, wouldn't help his own cause by showing up to court one day in a fur coat and sunglasses.

His troubles would continue with a false accusation of rape later that year. He would eventually sue the radio station that broke the story, eventually coming to an undisclosed settlement.

Shortly after his retirement he would make the police blotter once again for drug possession. The charges were later dropped but the damage was done. Irvin, had just signed a deal with Fox Sports Net to begin his second career as a broadcaster. In the wake of the negative publicity, Irvin would withdraw from the position.

Michael Irvin was a rudderless ship, it seemed.

But it wasn't too long before he was behind the mike. Starting in 2002 he would join the ensemble cast of 'the Best Damn Sport Show, Period' on Fox Sports Net. It was at that point that Irvin would begin to rehabilitate his image.

"It was the greatest thing for me," he says. "I certainly thank the Lord in my conversion and my commitment and me being open and willing to talk about that, is what changed people's minds." Which is true, sitting alongside Tom Arnold, John Salley, Chris Rose and John Kruk, Irvin was never hesitant to talk about his past, oftentimes, he would poke fun at his own foibles. Slowly, Irvin began to change the perceptions about him.

"You only get certain blips in the media about who Michael Irvin is- and I don't want to be talking in third person- but you only get stuff here and there," he continued. "That show allowed me to come in your lockeroom or your living room, your house, wherever you are for two hours a day. And they ran it like a reel. They ran it over and over and over again, So now your opinions- and maybe you formed some opinions of me- now you sit back and say,' Maybe he's not like we thought' So from that perspective it helped. It has just been tremendous."

His performance on the show was so good that eventually he was offered the job he really coveted - working on ESPN's coverage of the National Football League, being part of the crew that hosts 'NFL Countdown' and 'Monday Night Countdown'.

"That's my dream job," he admits, of his duties at the world-wide leader in entertainment and sports. "I miss playing, let me tell you. I will never, ever, never, ever, never, be able to replace what I got playing football on Sunday afternoon, playoff Sunday. I don't care, whatever you call ecstasy or getting to the pinnacle or whatever you call your apex, whatever!!! There's no other way I can come to it, no kind of way.

"But, if there's a close as you can get, what I'm doing is as close as you can get. I love what I'm doing."

And for Irvin, this job doesn't just mean traveling down to Bristol, Connecticut every weekend during the fall and waxing poetically about football. He approaches his new career just like he did his old one.

"Exactly the same way," he says. "I have a media coach, I have one here in Dallas, I have a vocal coach, a vocal awareness coach in Los Angeles, I work with another coach in Connecticut and what is it for? I watch tape, every time I'm on, I'm watching tape. Where can I be better? 'Michael don't go up too high, too quickly, stay down here, don't rise, keep your voice, don't drop your voice, when you want to go down, don't go there' And all that stuff, I work on.

"I work on it to get better. I'm approaching it like that because I want to be one of the best at it."

It's a much more placid lifestyle for Irvin who lives in Dallas with his wife Sandy and their three children. But he's still staying busy before the season starts.

"I set up a broadcasting school, we're starting next off-season," he tells CanesTime. "A whole broadcasting school where I'm bringing in guys from around the league and I put them through this two, three day camp, a training camp. Because so many times we have too much to chance." Irvin wants to teach the younger generation how to 'play the game' as well as he did with the media. "Every time someone turns on the TV, that's an opportunity and everybody's always flipping a camera on you- that's an opportunity to sell yourself.

"These are things I'm learning through this business. That's an opportunity to sell yourself and that is how they will kick out an opportunity at these jobs. They watch a few interviews, 'I like the way he handled himself, we'll give him an opportunity,' these types of things. So if we're going to do this and we're in it, let's be the best at it. Let's do it all."

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