The Rest of Michael's Life

As long-time readers of this space know, Michael Irvin and I became close friends years ago. Now that he's a soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Famer, I think it's worth reflecting on a quote he used on me many times, and another quote I used on him many times.

"Fish,'' Michael likes to say, "a man's greatest strength, can also be his greatest weakness.''

So it was with Irvin and his supreme and unwavering self-confidence. That asset was an almost unparalleled strength; he believed he could out-work, out-wit, out-play, anyone. That trait, however, was an almost self-destructive liability; it explains his brazen involvement with drugs, the grin he still wears when discussing with me his "addiction to women.'' and his simply moronic decisions to pull stunts like the infamous wearing of that full-length fur coat to the courthouse.

Irvin had to wait until his Saturday for the announcement of his induction largely because of his off-the-field foilbles -- the pleading no contest in 1996 to felony cocaine possession; the getting arrested in 2000 on drug possession charges that were later dropped, a stripper here, a drug pipe there, the White House as a second home -- but voters finally came to their senses. Because Irvin is (somewhat ironically) a classic "character guy.'' He was the backbone of one of the greatest teams of all-time, the soul of its locker room, the heart of its huddle. He has the numbers, of course; Irvin finished his career with 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns, was selected to five straight Pro Bowls and picked for the NFL's all-decade team of the 1990s. ... oh, and there are the three Super Bowl rings.

All of that makes him worthy of inclusion in a class that also includes Bruce Matthews, Roger Wehrli, Charlie Sanders and Gene Hickerson (and notably, no Paul Tagliabue).

"This was worth the wait," Irvin said Saturday, after hearing the announcements made as inducees for the shrine in Canton, Ohio, were listed alphabetically. "I know my alphabet. When I heard 'H' I was like, 'OK, 'I' is next.' So, whew! I was so afraid we were going to skip over the I's."

Irvin makes it because Hall voters finally decided to skip over his misbehaviors. And I still say they should not be ignored. They should be acknowledged. Which brings me to the quote I keep throwing at Michael.

What I've said to Irvin (and for almost 15 years now, to anyone who would listen) is this:

"Michael, any negative things that you've done in the first half of your life will be greatly overshadowed by all the positive things you can do with the second half of your life.''

So congratulations, Michael Jerome Irvin. The second half of your life is beginning.

And you're on the clock.

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