Remember the 1998 scissors incident? Michael Irvin and Cowboys lineman Everett McIver got in some sort of fight over a haircut, and McIver ended up with a 2-inch cut on his neck and stitches. The incident was hushed up by Cowboys officials, dismissed as mere horseplay, and with good reason: Irvin was still on probation, and a violation of its conditions could have landed him in the state penitentiary for as much as 20 years.
Today, Irvin doesn't mind telling what really happened in 1998, as well as his blunt observations on various Cowboys, famous and infamous.
What really happened in the scissors incident?
One of the guys came in and gave us haircuts, and Everett McIver, he's a young guy. Really, he just wanted to fit in. An ego thing, I guess. He and I both. And we have an order--the veterans go first. [Irvin goes on to explain that McIver was set to get his hair cut next. Then Irvin showed up and demanded his veteran's right to go before him. McIver, egged on by another player, Erik Williams, got upset.] And I said, tell you what, if we're not going to do it like we usually do it, then nobody gets their hair cut. The barber shop dude, he can get out of the building. And, of course, he [McIver] didn't like that. Then we started fighting. I grabbed the clippers to cut him off, and he tried to grab the clippers out of my hand. He pushed me, and I pushed him back, and he punched me, and that's how it started. He hit me in the mouth, and I just lost it. I mean, my head. I lost it. I saw the scissors, grabbed the scissors and cut him. They tried to put a spin on it for me, but I cut him.
Who was the best coach you ever played for?
Jimmy [Johnson]. By far.
Yes. He's a great motivator. Great coaching is leadership. And leadership only comes with an understanding of people. Chan [Gailey] wasn't a great leader. That was a problem. Barry [Switzer] knew one way to lead, and that was "Let a man be a man." Well, that's great, if you're going to hit the field and work hard every day. But it's not so great for some of these guys you need to push. Jimmy used to make comments every day before practice. I said, "Jimmy, I'm tired of all these pregame speeches." And he said, "I'm not giving these speeches for you; I know you're going to work. It's for these other knuckleheads out here that I've got to talk to get them going every day. So...deal with it." That's brilliance. I'm not worried about my strongest man; I've got to worry about my weakest man, and I've got to know every man. That's leadership.
Did Chan Gailey ever connect with the team?
I don't think Chan connected with anybody. Chan, to me, was kind of condescending. You know, like he was above it all.
Have you talked to Nate Newton since he's had all his legal troubles? (Newton has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for a federal drug-trafficking conviction involving marijuana.)
At court, you know what Nate told me? I went to see Nate, and I was crying. One of the worst places in the world to be is sitting in a courtroom, and...the prosecutor's job is to paint a picture of you as bad as he can paint. I was there, and I felt bad for Nate. But Nate handled it strange...Because when I went to Nate, I said, "I'll help you through this; I'll be there. When God put me through these things, I've got to be able to help other people in these situations." And he said, "Man, listen. Don't come back. Don't come back...First of all, I don't want you to see me like this. I made this mistake, man, and I'll have to live with it. I'll deal with this, man. You just look out for my son. Y'all look out for my son. Don't come back. Tell Deion, don't call. Y'all stop calling and don't come back, y'all."
Why did he say that?
Nate's a big, fun-loving guy. I think he's at his bottom. I really believe he's at his bottom.
Did Nate's problems surprise you?
Yeah. See, Nate never smoked weed. Trust me. I smoked weed around him, and Nate never touched the weed. Now, Nate drank beer like he's the whole fraternity himself. He'll drink the whole keg; that's how he drinks beer, but he never smoked anything. But you know, that was Nate's passion, fighting dogs.
That's a rough crowd.
Who fights dogs? It takes money to fight dogs. Well, dope dealers, things like that, somebody probably pot dealing. [Irvin goes on to speculate that the dog-fighting people got Newton involved in transporting marijuana.] Nobody ever think that you're going to get caught. You never think that until you get caught, and you go, "Oh, my God."
Do you think you belong in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor?
Oh, yeah. Definitely.
Will you end up in there?
Yes. How couldn't I? I shattered every Cowboy record, you know. Sometimes when we talk about football honors, I have to watch, because not only [are people] considering the numbers I put up, but the things that went on off the field. Same thing with the Hall of Fame--you still have to consider those things. But there are people who have input on who goes in the Hall of Fame, and we all get pretty judgmental. So, Hall of Fame I wonder about, but Ring of Honor, there's no doubt.
Everybody's looking at you; everybody's watching to see if you've really changed. Do you ever think, "What if I slip up?"
All the time. How can you not? I think we do so much harm by pretending that once you come in [to Christianity], it's roses from there. That's a lie. That's when the fight starts...It wasn't a fight before, because I just did whatever I wanted to do.
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Have you had to separate yourself from some of your old friends?
They separate themselves from me. If you get to talking about God enough, they'll leave, don't worry. I mean, we're not doing the same things. I'm going to church, man; I'm going to Bible study Wednesday night. All those phone calls dwindle down; they all dwindle down. Either I'm going to do the things you're doing, or you're going to come do the things I'm doing.
Do you still have the mink?
Yes. The resale on minks isn't that good, so I've got to wear it out. And when I go places, they always say, "That's the mink, man; that's the mink you wore into court, right?" They know it, they know that mink.