I’ve got three or four pretty good Emmitt Smith stories from my mediocre sports radio career and I added to the list last night with our oldest daughter Whitney. The all-time greatest running back in NFL history was in town for the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series at Midland College, and our favorite math professor, Lori Thomas, got us a pair of VIP passes for the event.
Emmitt stopped by the pre-event reception to take pictures with us and he was kind enough to pretend like he remembered me from my time at KRLD. Maybe. There were a lot of us in and out of Valley Ranch back in those days, but the longer we talked, the more he seemed to recognize me. He was mostly surprised to hear that I’m preaching. Most people are. And he was kind enough to autograph my press pass from the day he broke Walter Payton’s all-time rushing record against the Seahawks at Texas Stadium. It was the first and only time in my 16-years in sports radio that every person in the press box stood and applauded an athlete on the field. A special day.
Whitney doesn’t remember Emmitt Smith’s playing days. When he left the Cowboys the season before Bill Parcells took over for Dave Campo, she was nine. But she’s seen all the highlights and heard all the stories. She laughed out loud several times during Emmitt’s talk and her eyes lit up when he talked about Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, when he mentioned familiar names like Jerry Jones and Roger Staubach. She was especially locked in while listening to the story about the separated shoulder game against the Giants – an expertly delivered first hand account. I guess it was her first time to hear about that legendary performance and she was riveted. We debriefed it all the way home – she asking questions, me telling her my memories of that afternoon.
They don’t make ’em like Emmitt Smith anymore. Three Super Bowl victories, league and championship MVPs, Cowboys Ring of Honor, Pro Football Hall of Fame. His rushing records for most ever yards and most ever touchdowns in NFL history will never be threatened. He was durable, dependable, tenacious, and focused. Not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest. Just the undeniably best to ever do it. And still a really nice guy.