Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Greatest

The Cowboys re-signed the NFL's all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith so he can retire as a member of the team he helped make great during the '90s. Emmitt will finish his career with 18,355 rushing yards (1,629 yards ahead of Walter Payton), 164 rushing touchdowns and 4,509 carries; all are NFL records.

Five years from now, I will tune in to see Emmitt standing at the podium in Canton for his Hall of Fame induction. Aside from maybe Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith is the greatest running back in the history of football. The only reason Brown may have been better is because we don't know just how much more he would have done had he continued playing.

But Emmitt continued. Emmitt perservered. Emmitt went for the record...and he got it. He deserved it.

When Emmitt first came into the league his goal was to be the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Here we are 15 years later, and who is the NFL's all-time leading rusher? Yes, that would be Emmitt Smith.

While some might argue that Emmitt wasn't that great, I just have one word for them: bullshit! Some say anyone could have broken Payton's record with an offensive line like the 'Boys had during the '90s, but you still have to hit the hole while it's open. And Emmitt did.

And as Michael Irvin has pointed out numerous times, he made it look easy. Watching Emmitt run, it never seemed like he was doing anything magical. He wasn't plowing over linebackers like Jim Brown. He wasn't avoiding DBs with ankle-breaking jukes like Barry Sanders. He just kept running...right into the record books.

I grew up watching Emmitt Smith run for the record, and we may very well never see another running back like him. He was an amazing back, and the NFL is better off today after Emmitt's run with greatness.

The only regret I have looking back on Emmitt's entire career is the handoff he took against the Seahawks in 2002 when he broke Payton's record. It was 2nd and 7 on the Dallas 30 yard line. The offensive line had guys like Andre Gurode, Flozell Adams and Solomon Page. The handoff came from Chad Hutchinson. And the fullback Robert Thomas, well, he wasn't wearing #48.

If only it could have been Troy Aikman handing off that ball to Emmitt. If only Moose was in there blocking. Every member of the dynasty teams who could make it to Texas Stadium that weekend was there to watch Emmitt break the record.

But Emmitt outlasted them all. The back who was too slow and too small coming out of college has now sealed his name in the record books...where it should be.

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