One of the best parts of the NFL Hall of Fame ceremonies is the acceptance speeches. As Michael Irvin stated, it is a player's last chance to be on stage, and listening to their parting words is quite special.
When Emmitt Smith spoke this past Saturday night, you could feel the emotion in his words. His love for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, his teammates, and the fans was heartfelt. When he finished, I caught myself wanting to applaud.
The one thing missing from Emmitt's speech was any mention of his time at the University of Florida. Later, Smith explained that his original speech was 30 minutes long, and he was asked to shorten it. He then decided to give the speech without his notes, and without realizing it, he forgot to mention the Gators.
Should Gator Nation feel insulted that Smith forgot to mention his Alma Mater in his speech?
Get over it if you do. First of all, this was a very emotional moment for Emmitt, and this was an acceptance speech for entrance into the NFL, not NCAA, Hall of Fame.
Clearly, Emmitt is one of the greatest Gator football players of all time. If you were to ask any knowledgeable Gator fan who the top five Gator football players were, Emimitt's name would be mentioned along with Tebow's, Danny Wuerffel's, Steve Spurrier's, and a toss-up between Wilbur Marshall's or Jack Youngblood's.
That being said, since the typical Gator fan would mention Emmitt's name, should that same fan feel snubbed that Emmitt failed to mention Gator Nation?
Let me say it again—no.
With emotions running high, and his focus on family and teammates within a limited time frame, there was only so much Emmitt could fit into the speech. He later apologized during halftime of the Hall of Fame game Sunday night, and that should be good enough for any Gator fan who feels in any way slighted.
The Gator Nation should feel honored that one of our former football players was accepted into the NFL Hall of Fame. We should remember how great Emmitt Smith was, and not that he didn't mention the Gators during his acceptance speech.
In fact, my favorite memory of Emmitt Smith was as a Florida Gator, not a Dallas Cowboy. It was his last game in Gainesville, and a sign hung in the south endzone of Florida Field (it wasn't known as The Swamp at that time) that read "Win This One For Emmitt."
Unfortunately, the Gators lost to FSU that night, but the Florida Gators played their hearts out for Emmitt. As always, Emmitt was the offense, and they nearly pulled off an upset.
That's what I will remember when it comes to Emmitt Smith.