The Cowboys have had no shortage of legendary players and all-time NFL greats in their history, but only one of them comes to mind when you are asked to name the greatest player ever to wear the Dallas Cowboys uniform – yes, I’m talking about the legendary running back, Number 22, Emmitt Smith.
Easily one of the fiercest competitors of his era, Smith was the ultimate warrior on the gridiron. He was epic in stature and unsurpassed as a player.
The NFL’s all time leading rusher had it all and I’m not just talking about his enormous athletic ability. He was a great and charismatic leader, a passionate player who loved the game, a positive influence who made those around him better, and one of the classiest players that football has ever known.
Emmitt Smith burst onto the national scene while playing running back for the University of Florida. He set many school records as a Gator including their single game and season rushing records, and all of their scoring records. After three years at Florida he had scored 37 touchdowns, had 23 100-yard rushing games, was a NCAA All-American and still holds 58 school records. Emmitt opted not to complete his senior year and decided to enter the NFL draft.
After posting the worst record in franchise history at 1-15, the Cowboys drafted Emmitt Smith in the first round of the 1990 draft. Head coach Jimmy Johnson felt that Emmitt was the kind of player who could be the cornerstone of the team’s offense. He was right.
Over the next twelve seasons, Emmitt captured the hearts of Cowboy fans everywhere with his intensity and hard-nosed style of play. Together with Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman they formed the most lethal offensive punch that the game had ever seen. Emmitt Smith had real nose for the end zone and was nearly unstoppable inside the ten-yard line. During his career in Dallas, he was able to help lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl Championships, lead the NFL in rushing four times, was the league MVP in 1993, and MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII. He was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was the first player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons.
Emmitt Smith now holds the NFL record in career rushing yards with 18,355, breaking the previous record held by his childhood idol, and former great, Walter Payton. Besides this prestigious record, Emmitt holds over a dozen other NFL records including the all time career rushing touchdown record with 166 scores. He is one of only two non-kickers to score over 1000 points in his career, the other being Jerry Rice.
On September 19, 2005, Emmitt Smith was enshrined in the Cowboys Ring of Honor along with his former teammates Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin – The triplets.
However, the ultimate honor would come five years later when Canton came calling and Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. His legacy and his greatness will now be etched in the annals football immortality.