When the career of Emmitt Smith is discussed, the word "greatest" is thrown around a lot.
Greatest player in Dallas Cowboys history.
Greatest running back of all time.
Both of those statements hold true for Emmitt, who used his durability and determination to break nearly every rushing record imaginable and lead the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories.
It's hard to narrow such an illustrious career into 15 extraordinary moments, but every great player has moments that define who he is and what he can do, and these are those top 15 moments in the career of Emmitt Smith.
With the 17th pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys traded up for a kid out of Florida who all the "experts" had deemed too slow and small for the NFL game.
This was none other than Emmitt Smith.
He went on to start 15 of 16 games for the Cowboys in his rookie year, rushing for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns in the process.
It was Week 13 of the Cowboys season and they were playing the hated Washington Redskins.
Smith entered the game with 975 yards on the season and the Cowboys were a mere 6-5 on the season.
The Cowboys gave the ball to Smith 34 times and he turned that into 132 yards and one touchdown to surpass the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career.
Smith would go on to rush for 1,000 yards a record 11 different times in his career, and did so in 11 consecutive seasons.
Smith finished the season with 1,563 rushing yards, the most in the NFL that season.
The Cowboys won the game 24-21 and started a winning streak the would leave the Cowboys with an 11-5 record on the season and without a loss until the divisional round of the playoffs, where they lost to the Detroit Lions 38-6.
In 1992, the Cowboys went 13-3, and Smith's 1,713 rushing yards lead the league for the second straight year.
After beating the Philadelphia Eagles by 24 in the Divisional Round and the San Francisco 49ers by 10 in the Conference Championship, the Cowboys were headed to their first Super Bowl since they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl VIII.
Although the Bills were appearing in their third straight Super Bowl, the Cowboys were a 6.5 point favorite to win the game.
The Cowboys easily beat the odds, winning the game 52-17.
Smith averaged nearly five yards per carry as he ran for 108 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.
Although 1993 was a down year, when looking at his statistics from the two previous years, it was the first time Emmitt was recognized as the best player in the NFL.
He was named the AP NFL MVP, the PFWA NFL MVP, and the Bert Bell award winner that season. It was the only time he won any of those awards.
He rushed for a league leading 1,486 yards in 1993, the third straight year he lead the league in rushing, but that total was more than 200 yards less than he rushed for in the previous year.
His nine touchdowns were only third best in the NFL that season, and half of the league leading 18 he had in the previous season.
Smith did lead the league in yards per rush for the only time in his career in 1993, averaging 5.3 yards a carry.
For the second straight year, the Super Bowl featured the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills, and for the second straight year the Cowboys prevailed as champions.
This time, the Cowboys won 30-13 and were lead by the NFL's most valuable player in Emmitt Smith.
Smith had 158 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the game and would be named the games most valuable player afterward. Like Smith's other MVP awards, this was the only time in his career he was named Super Bowl MVP.
Christmas Day, 1995, the Cowboys are in Arizona taking on the Cardinals in the regular season finale.
Smith enters the game with 24 touchdowns on the season, which has him tied with John Riggins for the most touchdowns in a single season.
Though Smith only rushes for 68 yards, he is able to score a touchdown, his 25th on the season, setting the record for most touchdowns in a single NFL season.
Since Smith set this record, it has been surpassed three times, by Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Smith also led the NFL in rush attempts, rush yards, and rush yards a game in 1995.
Following a 12-4 regular season, the Cowboys rolled through the playoffs, easily beating the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers, and found themselves in their third Super Bowl in four years.
Lead by a two interception MVP performance by cornerback Larry Brown, the Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in the big game.
While Smith only rushed for 49 yards in the game, he found the end zone two times, giving him six total touchdowns in three playoff games that post season.
In the regular season and postseason combined, Smith rushed for a total of 31 touchdowns in the 1995 season.
Emmitt and the Cowboys entered Week 17 of the 1998 NFL season with a 9-6 record and tied for first place in the NFC East with the Arizona Cardinals.
Needing a win to get first in the division and a touchdown to pass Marcus Allen for first place on the all time career rushing touchdowns list, Smith went to work.
Though he only had 67 yards in the game, he average 6.7 yards per rush and ran for his 124th and 125th career touchdown, thus surpassing Marcus Allen and becoming the all time career touchdowns leader.
The Cowboys won the game 23-7 to clinch a playoff birth, but lost to those very same Arizona Cardinals in the first round.
Emmitt Smith entered the week 10 showdown with the New York Giants 58 yards short of 12,000 career yards and 94 yards from surpassing Tony Dorsett as the leading rusher in Cowboys history.
Smith put up a season high 163 yards on 29 carries, surpassing both marks with ease.
Smith would only have two games with more than 100 yards the rest of the season and barely surpass 400 yards total in the final eight games of the season.
Going into the final game of the season against the Detroit Lions, Smith had only 944 rushing yards on the season and his streak of consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons was in jeopardy.
Smith was able to rush for 77 yards in the game, giving him 1,021 yards on the season.
This was the 11th consecutive year that Smith rushed for 1,000 or more yards, setting the record for both consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and career 1,000 yard seasons.
It would also be the final time in Smith's career he would surpass the 1,000 yard mark.
Emmitt Smith entered the week eight game of the 2002 season against the Seattle Seahawks, needing 93 yards to surpass the great Walter Payton's mark of 16,726 rushing yards—the leading rusher in NFL history.
Smith ran for 109 yards on the day, becoming the NFL's all time leading rusher and the most storied running back in the games history in the process.
Smith finished his career with 18,355 yards rushing.
With his career winding down, Smith entered the Arizona Cardinals week seven game against the Seahawks having just tied Walter Payton for the most career 100-yard games just two weeks earlier.
Smith ran for 106 yards and one touchdown on the day that would go down as the final 100 yard game in his illustrious career.
In the final 10 games of the 2004 season, Smith would fail to rush for more than 71 yards in any single game and finish the season with only 937 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
Just three days before Super Bowl XXXIX, Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys found themselves at the center of the football world as the greatest running back of all time signed a one day, $0 contract, and in front of the Super Bowl media announced he would hang his cleats up after 15 years.
Smith is statistically the best running back in the history of football, breaking a number of records including:
NFL Rushing Record
Most Career Rushing Touchdowns
Most Career Rushing Attempts
Most Consecutive 1,000 Yard Seasons
Most Career Touches
Most Single Season Touchdowns (Has since been broken)
Most 100 Yard Games
Most Postseason Rushing Touchdowns
Most Consecutive Postseason Games with a Touchdown
Most Postseason 100 Yard Games
With his long time Hall of Fame teammates by his side, the triplets (Smith, Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman) were inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor during a 2005 home game against the Washington Redskins.
They joined a group of the 17 greatest players, coaches, and general managers in Cowboys history that includes 12 Hall of Famers and 14 Hall of Fame finalists.
Even with all the records, touchdowns, and even Super Bowls Emmitt Smith had throughout his career, August seventh 2010 will likely be the proudest moment of his career.
On this day, all of Smith's efforts on the field will be recognized and he will receive the biggest individual honor a football player can receive as he is enshrined forever into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He will join a group that includes Payton, Allen, Brown, Campbell, Dickerson, Dorsett, Sanders, Simpson, Thomas, and Walker as one of only 35 running backs to ever achieve this honor.
His records made him a hero, but this will make him a legend, and as the saying goes, "Heroes get remembered, but legend's never die."