Daddy dearest

As Michael Irvin tries to scrub his image, it just gets weirder and weirder

Walker explained that she wanted custody, and she wanted Irvin to pay $2,500 a month in child support. Irvin, on the other hand, didn't want to pay more than $800 a month. As a result, the court ordered all kinds of financial documentation from Irvin, who wasn't exactly suffering, but wasn't yet a millionaire either.

When Myesha was born, Irvin was in the second year of a four-year contract with the Cowboys, which had signed the first-round draft pick fresh out of the University of Miami in July 1988. As a rookie Cowboy, Irvin made $256,000 in 1990, according to court documents, and $300,000 in 1991. And he was spending just about every penny of it.

According to an inventory of his assets and liabilities filed with the court in August 1991, Irvin was a young man already supporting a wife in Dallas and a mother back in Florida. (Since then, he has added two more households--Felicia Walker and Myesha, plus another Dallas woman named Sandy Shore, who sued Irvin last year on behalf of her unborn baby and settled for an undisclosed sum.)

Here in Dallas, Irvin's modest brick home in Carrollton, purchased shortly after he arrived in Dallas, was costing him $1,636 a month. He was driving a 1988 BMW that he was paying $626 a month on. And he had taken out a $1 million life insurance policy that was costing him a whopping $6,200 a year in premiums.

Irvin had a house full of furniture--living-room pieces and four bedroom sets (no dining-room furniture, apparently)--but it wasn't lavish stuff by any means. He clearly liked electronic gadgets--better to see himself on TV, perhaps. He owned two TVs--one of them apparently oversized--two stereo systems, two VCRs, and a video camera. His VISA card had an outstanding balance of $9,800. (His legal bills for the paternity case were hefty, too; his last set of bills at the end of the two-year case totaled $27,000.)

According to court documents, Irvin and his wife had surprisingly little savings tucked away for a rainy day:They had one money-market account with $2,500 in it and two checking accounts with $500 and $13,000, respectively.

But it's not hard to see why his finances were a bit stretched.
According to court documents, Irvin had bought his mother, Pearl, a $185,000 home in Plantation, Florida, less than a year after Irvin joined the Cowboys. (During the Irvin family's house hunt, Michael and his mama, who had raised her 17 children in abject poverty, apparently surprised one would-be seller of a large home by asking if she would be willing to sell the house as is--with every piece of furniture and every pie plate left in it.)

Irvin was not only paying the $2,020 a month mortgage on his mom's house, he was paying all the utilities and maintenance on it. He also was paying for his mom's new car, her car insurance, her gas and maintenance, her groceries, her clothing, and every other thing she bought.

Of course, since those days, Irvin's financial situation has loosened up considerably. In fact, we can only marvel at Felicia Walker's miserable luck in the timing of her paternity trial, which took place before state District Judge Hal Gaither on October 28, 1991--just as the clock began to wind down on Irvin's initial four-year contract with the Cowboys.

Gaither's final ruling, setting up the trust fund, was issued on March 23, 1992. Sure enough, four months later Irvin demanded a whopping $1.4-million-a-year salary to stay with the Cowboys, and team owner Jerry Jones agreed to $1.25 million a short time later. In 1995--with Jones bound and determined to win a third Super Bowl--Irvin's salary skyrocketed to $5.5 million a year.

At the Super Bowl last January, Irvin apparently reached something of a financial zenith. While Coach Barry Switzer, star quarterback Troy Aikman, and the rest of the Cowboys team boarded buses to go to their first practice in Phoenix, Irvin and three fellow players--Erik Williams, Leon Lett, and Nate Newton--traveled separately in a $1,000-a-day limousine they imported from Dallas.

Walker's agreement is constructed in such a way that it blocks his 6-year-old daughter from sharing in his success. According to the stipulations of the trust fund set up four years ago, if Walker ever petitions a court for more money for her daughter, Myesha's trust fund will automatically vest in the name of Michael Irvin, and he will no longer have financial responsibility for the child.

Last Friday, I pulled up in front of a tiny brick home in a treeless neighborhood in Mesquite. The house overlooked a huge field that, ironically enough, contains Mesquite Memorial Stadium, an almost surreally large football facility adjacent to West Mesquite High School.

Felicia Walker purchased the house, on the county tax rolls for $90,420, eight months after the judge ruled in her favor in the paternity case. This is where she and Myesha live.

Last Friday, as I stood at the front door, fruitlessly ringing the bell and knocking on the door, beginning to think that nobody was home, I watched as a small black Mercedes came roaring down the driveway from the rear of the house.

Although it seemed clear that whoever was behind the wheel had no interest in talking to the person at their front door, I proceeded to flag down the car, which dutifully slowed to a stop. Felicia Walker, a pretty, trim woman wearing a black, silk T-shirt, peered out of the driver's side window at me, listening calmly--almost bored--as I explained that I was a newspaper reporter wanting to discuss Michael Irvin with her. She was in a rush to get somewhere, she explained, but if I could give her a business card, she would call me later.

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