Troy Aikman won’t be calling this year’s Super Bowl, but he’ll be in a star-studded new Frito-Lay ad entitled “‘Twas the Night Before Super Bowl” alongside Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, with Marshawn Lynch narrating and a half-dozen other Hall of Famers joking around as well.
Aikman caught up with Uproxx this week to talk about shooting the commercial, the way the NFL celebrates the legends of the game, and the next generation of quarterbacks-turned-broadcasters.
Watching this new Frito-Lay ad, I was thinking that in this of all years it must have been pretty nice to get to see everyone and put something like that together. What was the process for you and how was it getting to see everyone again?
It was great. From top to bottom, the whole experience was fantastic. I’ve said a number of times on and off the record that it was probably the best shoot, the most fun shoot, that I’ve ever had. And not only fun, but also the most efficient. Everyone just did a really great job and Frito-Lay was on top of it from top to bottom.
When I shot, they shot everyone kind of in different spots, so when I filmed mine, it was just me and Jerry and Joe, who I was in the scene with. Peter Berg directed it, who I had already known, and [he was] a total pro. All the safety precautions were taken, social distancing, masks right up until we got ready to tape, and it was just a really enjoyable experience, and I think I speak for everyone who was a part of that commercial with that.
One of the things I think football fans like is that around this time of year, we get to see you guys having fun, being ambassadors of the game. What does it mean to you that your legacy didn’t end when you left the field and you still get to be part of this stuff?
It means a lot. That was a great group to be a part of, so to be asked to be involved in that shoot meant a lot to me. [There were] some guys that I have a relationship with, guys that I competed against, and have a real history with, especially with Jerry. And Joe was on that team with the 49ers in 1992, but I obviously competed against him over the years not in the postseason.
It was really cool. The first commercial, “‘Twas the Night Before Kickoff,” was fantastic, I thought Marshawn Lynch was great, and really thought it was a lot of fun, so being familiar with how that one went and the context behind it all, for Frito-Lay to pull this one together with all the old-timers — and I say that respectfully — I thought it was great.
But I think you’re right. I think back a lot. Someone’s name will come up, a player from the past, and I’ll think, I wonder what they’re doing now. So I think there is something to be said, not that we’re that far removed from the game, for fans to see guys that were in their living room every week and now have gone in different directions, to come together in a commercial like this is pretty cool.
Obviously you personally aren’t too far from football fans’ minds doing games for Fox, so I wanted to ask you what that was like for you this year and what your takeaways were now that that’s wrapped up and you did a full season with all that was going on in 2020.
It was pretty crazy, as you can imagine. For us, at first, it’s hard to get used to no fans being in the stands and the whole atmosphere. I get to the field three hours before kickoff, so after you’re there at the stadium for about an hour, they open the gates, and there’s this build-up to kickoff. So to not have that, early on, it was hard to get used to, because now we’re getting ready to get on the air and it still feels like the game shouldn’t be starting.
Once the game kicks off, we have the crowd noise just like you’re getting at home, so it feels like there’s fans even though we obviously can’t see them. But I always marveled at the players, they don’t hear any of that. So for them to be able to go out and compete in that environment when they’re used to 60, 70, 80 thousand fans at a game, I thought it spoke more to them than anyone else.
Getting in and out of the stadiums, there was no traffic, so there were some things that kind of made it much more convenient. Especially for our Thursday night games, there’s no rush-hour traffic getting to the stadium, when the games ended, we got out of there without any issues. You don’t run into anybody. So that part of it was different and made travel a little bit easier, but I think I speak for everyone around the country that just hopes that this was the only time we’re going to have to go through that and that next year we have full stadiums and we’re not talking about this any longer.
On the note of broadcasting, we’ve heard a lot of news of guys who might be announcing games, whether it’s Philip Rivers or Drew Brees, other guys whose careers are wrapping up. As a quarterback who transitioned that way, why do you think the attention gets put on them so early and what will make them successful if and when they choose to do that?
There was a time when I was playing that there would be a couple guys, like Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, we kind of figured would go into television, but there wasn’t a lot of talk about it in our locker room, and I don’t remember there being a lot of talk about it league-wide as far as what players might or might not go into television. It was the last thing that I thought I would do.
Now, you hear players — and it’s been this way for a while — talk about how they would like to go into broadcasting when they retire, and I understand it. It’s a great job. I’ve been really fortunate to have this job. I just finished my 20th year in broadcasting.
Guys like Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and not just all quarterbacks, there’s a lot of guys who will be successful. Drew’s going to, maybe this year if he’s done playing football since he’s already signed with NBC, and I think Drew will be fantastic with all that he accomplished, his awareness of the game, and being able to convey that to the viewer, I think he’ll be terrific. And I think Philip would be too, he’s always been one of my favorite guys, but I’m not sure if that’s the route he’s going to go. It’s my understanding he’s going to coach. But there’s a lot of really talented guys, smart guys who know the game, who would be really good on television.
So it’s not just a matter of waiting until Dak Prescott is done playing? It’s not just Cowboys quarterbacks?
(Laughs) Well you might think that, huh? And a lot of Cowboys players, of course. But no. Hopefully Dak’s playing a long, long time. Hopefully I’m out of broadcasting by that time. I’m not planning on retiring any time soon, but that will mean that Dak’s playing for a long time.
He’ll come take your spot when you’re finished up, then.