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Emmitt James Smith III (born May 15, 1969 in Pensacola, Floridamarker) is a former American football player. He played for the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals and is the NFL's all-time rushing leader, a record formerly held by his childhood hero, Walter Payton. He is the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award all in the same season (1993). He is also one of four running backs to lead the NFL in rushing three or more consecutive seasons, joining Steve Van Buren, Jim Brown, and Earl Campbell.

While playing for the Cowboys, Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin were the "Triplets" who led their team to three Super Bowl championships during the 1990s.

Early years

Emmitt Smith attended Escambia High Schoolmarker in Pensacola, Florida. During his football career there, Smith rushed for 106 touchdowns and 8,804 yards, which was the second most yardage in the history of American high school football at the time. Emmitt rushed for over 100 yards in 45 of the 49 games he started for Escambia (including the last 28 in a row) and finished with a 7.8 yards per carry average. Twice, he broke the 2000 yard rushing mark in a season.

For his efforts, Smith was named the USA Today and Parade Magazine high school player of the year for 1986. In 2007, Smith was named the best player in the 100 year history of Florida high school football by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

Yet despite his accomplishments and accolades, some college recruiting experts opined that he was too small and too slow to succeed in major college football when he signed to play at the nearby University of Florida.

College career

Emmitt Smith did not start the first two games of his college career in the fall of 1987, but made the most of his opportunities in a 2nd-week rout of Tulsa in which he turned 10 carries into 109 yards, including a 66 yard touchdown run. That performance earned him his first collegiate start in the next contest: the SEC opener against Alabama in Birminghammarker.

In his first full game, Smith promptly broke Florida's 40-year old all-time single game rushing record, carrying 39 times for 224 yards and 2 TDs as the Gators upset the Crimson Tide. Smith went on to break the 1000-yard barrier in the 7th game of his freshman season, the fastest any running back had ever broken that barrier to begin his college career. He finished the 1987 season with 1,341 yards and was named Southeastern Conference and National Freshman of the Year. He also finished 9th in that year's Heisman voting.

Smith started the 1988 season strong until injuring his knee against Memphis State. The Gators, who had started the campaign 5-0 with Smith in the backfield, lost the game in which he was injured and then the next three as well while Smith was unable to play. Upon returning, he almost reached 1000 yards on the season, finishing with 988.

Smith stayed healthy throughout his junior season in 1989 and found success again. He finished the campaign with Florida records for rushing yards in a season (1,599), rushing yards in a single game (316 versus New Mexicomarker in October 1989), longest rushing play (96 yards against Mississippi State in 1988), career rushing yards (3,928), and career rushing touchdowns (36), among many others. In all, Smith owned 58 school records at the conclusion of his Florida career. He was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was selected to many All-American lists, and finished 7th in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

After the season, Florida hired Steve Spurrier to coach the Gators. Smith, concerned about his place in Spurrier's reportedly pass-first offense, decided to forgo his senior year at Florida and enter the NFL draft. (Ironically, Smith's school rushing record would be broken by Spurrier's first starting running back Errict Rhett, albeit over four seasons instead of three.)

Smith was subsequently inducted into the Gator Football Ring of Honor and the College Football Hall of Famemarker.

Professional career

Despite his collegiate success, some NFL teams still felt that Smith was too small and slow for the pro game He fell to the 17th pick in the first round, when he was picked by the Dallas Cowboys, who traded up to draft him.

Emmitt Smith was the first player in NFL history to have five consecutive seasons with over 1,400 rushing yards. Smith, Jim Brown, and LaDainian Tomlinson are the only players with seven straight 10-touchdown seasons to start their careers. With 1,021 rushing yards in 2001, Smith became the first player in NFL history with 11 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and the first to post 11 1,000-yard rushing seasons in a career. He is the NFL's all-time leader in rushing attempts with 4,409.

NFL's all-time leading rusher banner from Texas Stadium


Smith currently holds the NFL record in career rushing yards with 18,355, breaking the previous record held by Walter Payton, on October 27, during the 2002 NFL season. He leads all running backs with 164 career rushing touchdowns, and his 175 total touchdowns ranks him second only to Jerry Rice's 207 touchdowns. The sum of his rushing yards, receiving yards (3,224) and fumble return yards (-15), gave him a total of 21,564 yards from the line of scrimmage, making him one of only four players in NFL history to eclipse the 21,000-combined yards mark.

Smith also accumulated a number of NFL postseason records, including rushing touchdowns (19), consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (9) and 100-yard rushing games (7). His 1,586 yards rushing is also top on the NFL postseason chart, and he shares the total playoff touchdown mark of 21 with Thurman Thomas. With the Cowboys, Smith won three Super Bowl rings and rushed for over 100 yards in two of those games, Super Bowl XXVII (108 yards and a touchdown, along with 6 receptions for 27 yards), and Super Bowl XXVIII (132 yards and two touchdowns, along with 4 receptions for 26 yards). Smith received the Super Bowl MVP award for Super Bowl XXVIII, becoming the only Cowboys running back ever to win the award out of all their Super Bowl wins.

Smith is one of only five NFL players who have amassed over 10,000 career-rushing yards and 400 career receptions. Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice are the only two non-kickers to score 1000 points in a career.

Playing style

As a runner, Smith was consistently effective, though not dazzling in style. "(Smith) darted, slithered and followed his blockers, and squeezed yard after yard out of plays that didn't have any yards in them. He didn't look especially fast or powerful or blindingly deceptive, yet he couldn't be stopped." Smith was noted for being a very durable back with excellent vision, tremendous leg strength, and great balance, and was known as one of the best second-effort runners ever. Smith was also a reliable receiver and an excellent blocker in pass protection.

During his career, he was often compared to Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders as both men were extremely successful for their respective teams and combined for 8 rushing titles during the 1990s. Some give Smith the edge for his consistent "north-south" style that took full advantage of Dallas' talented offensive line, while some think Sanders' spectacular running style with sudden changes of direction made him a better back. Observers agree, though, that both Smith and Sanders were among the greatest players to ever play the game.

In 1999, while he was still playing and three years before becoming the game's all-time rushing yardage leader, Smith was ranked number 68 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Retirement

Three days before Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, Smith announced his retirement from the NFL. He was released by the Arizona Cardinals and signed a one day contract for no money with the Dallas Cowboys – after which he immediately retired as a Cowboy, the team he played for from 1990 to 2002.

After football

In September 2005, Smith signed on to serve as a studio analyst on the NFL Network show, NFL Total Access.

On September 19, 2005, at halftime of the Cowboys-Redskins game (broadcast on Monday Night Football), Smith was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor with his longtime teammates Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin.

Smith becomes eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Famemarker in 2010, and it is widely expected that he will be inducted on his first opportunity.

On July 23, 2006, Smith was a judge at the Miss Universe 2006 pageant.

In the fall of 2006, Smith won Dancing with the Stars with professional dancer Cheryl Burke. Smith was praised for "making dancing look manly" and for his "natural charm", and Burke was given credit for coaching Smith while still allowing him to improvise some moves.

On March 12, 2007, Smith joined ESPN as a studio analyst for their NFL pregame coverage alongside Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Chris Mortensen. However, he was removed from this coverage for the 2008 season. Instead, he appears Sunday mornings during the NFL season on SportsCenter. He appears with Steve Young and Stuart Scott at the Monday Night Football site each week on Monday Night Countdown. His contract was not renewed for the 2009 season.

Smith had been criticized by some in the media and sports blogs as being inarticulate. Jimmy Kimmel Live created a video called "Emmitt Smith: Wordsmith" mocking his numerous malapropisms. Sports Illustrated′s Peter King called Smith's comments regarding Michael Vick's involvement in the Bad Newz Kennelsmarker "idiotic and inappropriate."

Video games

He had a football video game named in his likeness called Emmitt Smith Football which featured all 28 NFL teams and was commentated by Emmitt Smith. It was released in 1994 for the Super NES and Sega Genesis.He is also in the Dancing with the Stars videogame, partnered with his dance partner from his season on the show, Cheryl Burke.

Personal

Smith is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity at Florida and returned to school during the off-season to take classes. He received his degree in Public Recreation from the University of Florida in May, 1996.

Smith married former Miss Virginia USA beauty queen Patricia Southall on April 22, 2000. Their son, Emmitt IV, was born on Smith's 33rd birthday, May 15, 2002. Smith has a daughter, Regan by ex-girlfriend Hope Wilson and a stepdaughter, Jasmine, Southall's daughter from her previous marriage to comedian Martin Lawrence.

References

  1. Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin Heading Into Ring Of Honor


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