LaDainian Tomlinson: Emmitt Smith's NFL Rushing Record Will Never Be Broken

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIMay 17, 2020

Dallas Cowboys former running back and Hall-of-Famer Emmit Smith (22) participates in a ceremony before the start of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010, in Arlington. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)
Sharon Ellman/Associated Press

Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith sits atop the NFL's all-time rushing leaderboard with 18,355 yards.

Fellow Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson expects it to stay that way forever.  

"No one will ever break this record," Tomlinson said on NFL Network (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith). "There's not enough opportunities that running backs will get. We know the shelf life is a lot shorter for running backs. I just don't see guys getting a lot of opportunities. That's a lot of yards for a guy to amass and I just don’t think it’s going to happen."

Tomlinson is seventh on the list with 13,684 yards.

Smith began his professional career when the Dallas Cowboys selected him 17th overall in the 1990 draft. The three-time Super Bowl champion played for the Cowboys until signing with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, and he played in the desert for two seasons. 

Smith recorded at least 1,000 yards rushing in 11 straight seasons from 1991 to 2001, including a career-best 1,773 yards and 25 touchdowns on 377 carries in 1995. The 51-year-old retired as a Cowboy in February 2005.

The next-closest active player is Frank Gore at No. 3 with 15,347 yards. The 37-year-old signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets for 2020 and sits 1,379 yards behind Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton's second-place 16,726 yards.

Gore surpassed Barry Sanders last November.

The league's leading regular-season rusher last season was Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, whose 303 carries, 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns each topped the NFL.