Talking to Laufenberg, Aikman learns his lesson Ex-QB passes on knowledge of game


LOS ANGELES -- They were the Dallas Cowboys quarterback Odd Couple when they roomed together: the rag-armed journeyman who's quick with the quips and the strong-armed future star who talks only in cliches.

The difference in their personalities didn't stop Babe Laufenberg and Troy Aikman from becoming good friends when they played together with the Dallas Cowboys in 1989-90.

"When I came here, he was a rookie having to play through some tough times," said Laufenberg, who made a career out of going through some tough times.

Laufenberg, who became a folk hero in Washington with his ad lib style of play in the exhibition games even though he never played in a regular-season game with the Redskins, has remained friends with Aikman even though he's now a broadcaster in Dallas.

They get together for breakfast every Monday morning to review the previous day's game and they had dinner Wednesday night as the Cowboys prepared for Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills.

"He's a guy who played quarterback and really has a good view on things. I really trust his opinion. He's a good sounding board," Aikman said.

Laufenberg can't resist making a few jokes about their relationship.

"I don't want to hold myself out as a guru, but I'll tell you I made him what he is. The Cowboys made a mistake drafting him and I straightened him out," Laufenberg said jokingly.

Laufenberg also has a good line about the times when they roomed together the night before each Cowboys game.

"I was the envy of every woman in Dallas. For two years, I spent every night in a hotel room with Troy Aikman. It's not all it's cranked up to be," he said.

Aikman is such a low-key type that it seems surprising that he and Laufenberg hit it off so well. But Laufenberg insists that in private, Aikman isn't as bland as the personality he presents in public.

"He's actually a funny guy. People say he's boring and his public image is guarded. He doesn't let that other side of him come out," he said.

Laufenberg added that the mature image Aikman projects at age 26 is the real Aikman.

"I hate to get philosophical about it, but I think it starts with the person at the core. He's a very good guy, a very loyal person. Even when all this stuff was coming down on him the first couple of years and it wasn't all his fault, he was taking the blame. He could have easily pointed to other things that were happening at the time," he said.

Laufenberg said the one thing Aikman had to learn was not to expect to do too much by himself. He says he won't play golf with Aikman because he gets mad at himself after five or six holes and is ready to quit.

"Patience is not his strong suit," Laufenberg said.

The first player selected in the 1989 draft out of UCLA, Aikman was injured in each of his first three seasons and critics were suggesting he'd never live up to his potential.

This is the first year he's stayed healthy all year and he led the team into the Super Bowl.

Aikman has said all week that he can't take it for granted the Cowboys are going to make it back even though they're a young team.

Laufenberg said jokingly, "I say, 'Why can't you go every year if you're so good?' "

Laufenberg added on a serious note, "That's the kind of stuff we talk about. People here think it's going to be a dynasty and it may well be and it may not. I don't think he likes it when people start talking about next year and going 14-2, 15-1."

Noting how Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins made it in his

second year after the 1984 season and hasn't been back, Aikman, who's in his fourth year, said, "You'd like to think with the youth we have, we'd get opportunities to come back. But then you look at Dan's situation and I know if we realize how hard it is to get here we need to take advantage of the opportunity."

On Jim Kelly, his counterpart for the Bills, Aikman said: "We approach the game in much the same fashion, but he's a different personality. He has a zany approach to life."

When Aikman was asked for an example, he said, "That's all you're getting."

Kelly didn't mind being called zany. "I enjoy myself," he said.

Kelly added, "I know Troy a little and he's kind of quiet."

Kelly does have a lot of respect for Aikman and says he's "definitely one of the quarterbacks of the 1990s."

Aikman said: "I'm very flattered when I hear things like that. But I don't pay a whole lot of attention because it doesn't mean it's going to happen. I'd rather people say in 1988-89 that I was the quarterback of the '90s."

L One thing that's certain is that success won't spoil Aikman.

As Laufenberg said, "He'll probably do Lettermen and a few things like that, but I guarantee you he'll be in the weight room in March."

Super Bowl XXVII


Buffalo Bills (14-5) vs. Dallas Cowboys (15-3) Date: Sunday, 6:18 p.m.

Site: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

TV: Channels 2, 4

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Line: Cowboys by 6 1/2

Super Bowl records: Bills 0-2, Cowboys 2-3

Series: Cowboys lead, 3-1

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