Emmitt Smith was a no-brainer for the 2010 NFL Hall of Fame selection committee. One wonders whether his presenter had to do any more than stand and say, "Emmitt Smith: I rest my case."
Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, Smith is still a lightning rod. Most people outside Dallas do not think of him as the greatest running back in NFL history. Heck, most people in Dallas don't either.
Most people I have talked to, read, or listened to have said he was not even the best running back of his own generation. That honor is usually bestowed on Barry Sanders, the Detroit Lions running back whose premature—and unexpected—retirement paved the way for Smith to be the first and (to this point) only runner to surpass the legendary Walter Payton on the NFL's all-time leading rusher list.
Emmitt Smith was a triplet.
He was not born a triplet. Rather, he became one upon being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
He, quarterback Troy Aikman, and wide receiver Michael Irvin became the three-pronged offensive attack of the 1990s' greatest NFL team. Together, they won three Super Bowls in four years. Together, they were shock and awe, slice and dice, score and strut, all rolled into one dynamic silver-and-blue package.
Still, Smith is met with mixed reaction in the very city where he forever immortalized himself and forced his way into Canton.
Some see him as the most self-absorbed of the triplets. Smith often came across as being a team guy when being a team guy was best for Emmitt. While Michael Irvin might incur a fine for throwing a ball to some sick kid in the stands after he scored a touchdown, Smith meticulously had each touchdown ball marked and placed in a chest for safekeeping.
Of course, that same Emmitt would famously play with a badly hurt shoulder when his team needed him most.
Some see Smith as selfish; others as singularly focused.
However you see him, it cannot be denied that the man squeezed every ounce of accomplishment out of his own talent. He was not the fastest running back in the NFL. Far from it. He was not the strongest. He was not the shiftiest. He was not the most fluid. He was, however, one of the best ever to carry a football.
Should you doubt his greatness, let me throw just a fistful of facts your way:
- Smith is the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 18,335 yards. Let that sink in a moment. Think of all the great backs that have graced the league. He stands alone and above them all in sheer number of yards gained.
- He was the first back in NFL history to rush for 1,400 yards or more every season for five consecutive seasons.
- He rushed for 1,000 yards or more 11 seasons in a row!
- He had 164 career rushing touchdowns.
- He had 19 rushing touchdowns and seven 100-yard rushing performances in postseason play.
These in no way represent all of his accomplishments, but if you aren't convinced of his greatness by now, you don't need more facts: You need a signed note from a doctor certifying your sanity.
Indomitable, irrepressible, incomparable, incoherent, illiterate...
These are just a few words used to describe the great Emmitt Smith. As great as his unlikely on-field accomplishments were, his off-field communications and antics have been equally great (or at least good for a laugh). From winning the Dancing with the Stars contest, to stumbling over whether a team is "blown" or "blowed" out, to predicting a 7-9 finish for the 2009 Cowboys, the off-the-field limelight has been more of a harsh glare than a warm glow for Smith.
Perhaps Smith's greatest Hall of Fame moment as a world-class butcher of logic and language came in his infamous "We Had Some Diamonds" quote, which can be heard here.
The exact quote is as follows: "We had some diamonds, but we had a lotta cow poo poo around it, and the diamonds was mixed in with the poo poo...it just all look like poo poo."
Try diagramming that sentence.
Another collection of Smith nuggets can be found here. Listen at your own risk.
Is Emmitt a no-brainer for the NFL Hall of Fame? That question doesn't even warrant an answer, because it shouldn't be a question at all.
Moreover, if there were a Hall of Fame for professional athletes who lack communicative and cognitive skills (maybe we could call it the No Brain Hall of Fame), you would have to assume Smith would be a first-ballot selection there, as well.
So, congratulations to Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. He made our jaws drop and our ears bleed. He made us hit the rewind button and question our own sanity. He made us proud. He made us cheer. He made us laugh.