When Emmitt Smith was drafted in 1990, the first thing I said was “Who is this guy and what the hell is he wearing??”. All reports said he was too small and too slow to be a feature back in the NFL. Then we all watched him evolve from this kid in the ugly jumpsuit into a Pro Bowler, then an All Pro, a Super Bowl MVP, NFL’s All Time Leading Rusher and in 2010, a Hall Of Famer.
Ever stop to think when is that pivotal moment when a player becomes a legend? Is it after they retire? Is it a particular game that elevates them to the next level?
It seems to happen without us knowing it. Sorta like how your kids grow up right in front of you. They seem to go from playing tee-ball one day to graduating high school the next. Of course you watched it happen, yet it’s all a flash to you now. Or is it just me?
Troy Aikman looked like a fish out of water his rookie year. I personally saw him as a draft bust after that miserable 1-15 season. I knew this guy couldn’t take Dallas to the Promised Land. He seemed to have all the tools but I wasn’t confident at all in his ability to run a team. Then we all watched him evolve into a Pro Bowler, an All Pro, a true leader, a field general, a Super Bowl MVP, the winningest QB in a single decade (90 wins in the 90s) and a Hall Of Famer.
Obviously Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith are once in a generation players. But so were Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett. All is not lost when the legends retire from the game. Shoes have to be filled. History in Dallas has proven it is not a matter of if they will be filled but when they will be filled.
Today’s Cowboys are no different than the ones of Cowboys’ past. We will watch in disgust and dismay as they make their own mistakes and pay their own dues. We will watch these young men and not even realize that they’re evolving right before our eyes. When the rookies become stars and the stars become legends.
Watching these kids become men and these men become legends is a gift one will learn to appreciate more as the years go by. I know I have.