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Troy Aikman Talks Entrepreneurship and His First Year at ESPN

  • Leads ‘Monday Night Football’ to the best performance in a decade.
  • Will take EIGHT Elite Light Lager beyond Texas sometime this year.
Troy Aikman Joe Buck Monday Night Football
Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

It’s been a year of big career changes for Troy Aikman. 

The Pro Football Hall of Famer jumped to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” after over 20 years as the No. 1 NFL analyst at Fox Sports.

With his reported $90 million, 5-year contract, Aikman’s now tied with Tony Romo of CBS Sports as the highest-paid talent on sports TV.

Meanwhile, the 56-year-old has become an entrepreneur, launching his “EIGHT” beer after his old Dallas Cowboys jersey number. The three-time Super Bowl winner expects to take the new light brew outside of Texas for the first time this year.

The hiring of Aikman and partner Joe Buck gave ESPN the best “Monday Night Football” booth since the days of the late Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and Don Meredith. 

And the new MNF announce team of Aikman, Buck, sideline reporter Lisa Salters and rules analyst John Parry delivered during the 2022 season. If you include MNF’s Wild Card Playoff telecast, the venerable primetime series generated its best season in a decade, averaging 14.8 million viewers.

During the 2023 season, ESPN will benefit from flexible scheduling. It’s the first time the league has extended flexible scheduling beyond NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” 

It will enable ESPN to dump some of the least attractive matchups that plague its late-season schedule.

“I’m curious as to what the mechanics of that will be and what flex scheduling will look like because it’s one thing to go from a Sunday afternoon game to a Sunday night. But we’re changing days going from a Sunday to a Monday night,” Aikman said in an interview with Front Office Sports.

“So that affects a lot of people and the teams also. As well as the fans. So I’m looking forward to that. I think it makes sense that primetime games should have the best games. And now ESPN will be able to say that going forward.”

Despite Dak Prescott flopping in the NFL Playoffs for the second straight season, Aikman supports the Cowboys’ current quarterback. 

“I’m a big fan of Dak. They’ve got a big contract on him right now. So I think they’re going to have to stick with him. I think that’s a good thing. Because has shown over the years his commitment to getting better. He’ll continue to put in the time this off-season. They had a good year. They’ve had a lot of good years with Dak. Unfortunately for them, it just ended in their minds a little prematurely. But you keep knocking on the door enough times. Eventually, you knock it down. That’s their hope.”

Calling ESPN’s First Super Bowl

Coming in early 2027, Aikman and Buck will call ESPN’s first Super Bowl telecast. 

Since its founding in 1979, ESPN’s corporate dream has been to televise the Big Game. 

Aikman and Buck called six Super Bowl telecasts at Fox. They’ll bring experience and gravitas that will be hard for other networks to match.

So what’s Aikman’s advice for Tom Brady when he enters the Fox broadcast booth for the 2024 season?

“Just to be himself. I have no illusions as to what it might look like for Tom. I think he’ll be fantastic. He’s been great at everything he’s done. The reason he has been so good is because he puts in the work. And that’s the key. You can fake it for a little bit, and then it catches up to you. You’ve got to put in the time. I think the fans deserve that – and Tom will give that to him.”

The former UCLA star continued: “I think [Brady’s] gonna be a huge success. I know he’s announced that he is gonna start up in 2024. I’m sure he’ll use this year to study, kind of the mechanics of it, how it works. And be as prepared as he can possibly be when he starts.”

New Financing For EIGHT

Meanwhile, Aikman’s EIGHT Elite Light Lager celebrated its first anniversary as the fastest-selling independent beer in Texas. 

The beer is now sold in more than half of the grocery stores in the Lone Star State.

Aikman knows his new light beer is competing against brands from giant brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors. 

But he and his partners just wrapped a second round of financing. He sees significant growth ahead for EIGHT, particularly among athletes who enjoy a cold brew.

“I really think the reason that we’ve grown the way that we have, is because we offer something that the other light beers don’t. And that is, we don’t have any adjuncts. We have no corn, rice, syrup, or sugars that are added to our beer,” he said.

“So we’re at 90 calories and 2.6 carbs. And those measurables are really important to people. But I think once they learn our story, in that we don’t have adjuncts and we don’t add a lot of the garbage that other beers do, I think it resonates with people. Because I think at the end of the day, people, they want what’s better for them. And there’s no question that EIGHT gives them that opportunity and that choice.”

Aikman got his first taste of the beer business as a young student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma, where he worked at a Miller distributor. So look for the Sooner State as the next stop on EIGHT’s expansion plan. “It makes sense with my background there,” he noted.

Could Aikman see EIGHT someday airing a TV commercial on the Super Bowl? Maybe one of the Super Bowl telecasts he will be calling for ESPN? You never say never.

“That would be exciting for me. I’ve been a part of some commercials over the years that have aired on Super Bowl Sunday. When you’re talking about the companies that can afford that kind of advertising, they have definitely arrived,” Aikman said. “So I can envision it. If one day we are running on Super Bowl Sunday, and hopefully it’s a game that I’m calling, that would be fantastic.”

What If Questions

Speaking of running a business, Aikman wonders if he could win another Super Bowl ring as an NFL front-office executive or team owner. 

“I think I could right now if I decided that hey, this is a goal of mine. It would mean giving up television in order to do that. I think right now, I’m in a good place with my career. I really enjoy the people that I work with. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. So more than likely that’s something that’s not going to happen,” he said. “But I will say, and I’ve said it all along, that when my days on this Earth come to an end, or are winding down if I haven’t done that, I’ll always wonder. And I wonder right now. I think I’d be good. But you never know unless you do it. So those will always be questions that I’ll have for myself as to whether or not I could have done the job that I believe I can.”

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