Troy Aikman was on the phone, but you could almost hear the wince when I reminded him he now has been a television analyst as long as he was an NFL quarterback.
This is his 12th year at Fox, after 12 with the Cowboys.
"Another reminder we’re getting old; you just say, 'Geez!'" he said. "I do kind of find myself scratching my head and wondering where the time has gone.''
At 45, Aikman said he still considers himself "young as a broadcaster," having joined Fox in 2001, a year after he retired. But many football fans under 21, even those who know he played, relate to him more as a TV personality.
Aikman, who will work Sunday’s Buccaneers-Giants game, equated it to how he felt seeing Don Meredith, another former Cowboys quarterback, on television.
"I knew Meredith played, but I never saw him play," he said. "I only knew of him because he was broadcasting on 'Monday Night Football' and my mom was a big fan of his Lipton iced tea."
Unlike many peers, Aikman never envisioned pursuing broadcasting when he retired. "I thought, 'I’ll do it for a few years and see what I want to do next,'" he said. "And here I am 12 years later."
Aikman said he loves almost everything about the job, with one significant exception.
"If I could call the game from my house, there would be nothing wrong with this job I’m doing," he said. "With young girls [at home in Texas] the traveling every weekend is hard."
When I told Aikman’s partner, Joe Buck, we had been discussing how long it has been since Aikman played, Buck said, "Was it hard to hear him through his sobbing?"
But even for Buck, the years have not diminished the stature Aikman earned in his previous life.
"He's one of my best friends, but I still think of him as the NFL quarterback more than as the broadcaster," Buck said, "and I'm sitting next to him."