Your Voice, Your Choice: Emmitt Smith's Road to Canton

The number 12,739 was the first football statistic that really meant something to me. It represents the career rushing yards of my boyhood hero, Tony Dorsett. As a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I took pride in the fact that he was second only to Walter Payton in the category. Then, along came Eric Dickerson led by his 2,105-yard season. Every year, his yardage increased, threatening to knock Dorsett out of second. In 1989, an amazing rookie named Barry Sanders burst onto the scene with a 1,470-yard campaign and a 5.3 YPC.

I knew Dorsett's reign at number two would not last much longer.

For years, Dorsett's total stayed strong behind Payton's seemingly unreachable 16,726 yards. At least when the announcers would show a graphic on it, I would get to see the star emblem between the Chicago Bears' "C" and the Cleveland Browns' orange helmet (Jim Brown). But as the years passed, my fear that the Cowboys would no longer have a top five all-time leading rusher was starting to become a reality.

The NFL Draft was not a widely televised event in 1990 as it is today. Growing up in California, the Cowboys were rarely televised; so, I had to get my Dallas fix on NFL Primetime. Not until I saw Emmitt Smith rush for four touchdowns in Week 15 against the Cardinals that first season, did I think the Cowboys had a running back that could break records.

937 yards in his rookie year wasn't bad, but it was nowhere near what Sanders put up the year before. His 11 touchdowns was great for the team, but it did little for my greediness to have a Dallas Cowboy atop the league leaders in rushing yards. What can I say? I was more into collecting football cards then. I had no idea Dallas was on its way to winning three Lombardi Trophies. And I certainly did not see Smith surpassing Dorsett's team mark of 12,036 yards.

Emmitt Smith ran far beyond that mark. On October 27, 2002 during a home game against the Seattle Seahawks, Smith did the unthinkable. He surpassed Walter Payton to become the NFL's all-time rushing champion.

His final stats are headed by his astounding 18,355 yards rushing on 4,409 attempts for a career YPC average of 4.2. His 164 rushing touchdowns blow away the competition among running backs, with LaDainian Tomlinson's 127 currently being the next best. Add to that his 515 receptions for 3,224 yards and 11 receiving scores. Throw in his uncanny ability to pick up the blitz with his 5'9" 200-pound frame and the overall leadership he provided his team, and the argument can be made that Emmitt Smith is the best running back ever.

Now, he is being nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2010.

Blogging The Boys and SB Nation are teaming up with JCPenney/Van Heusen and the Pro Football Hall of Fame to promote something new. (SB Nation was compensated for this effort, but BTB would have done it for free since it's about Emmitt Smith!)

This year the Pro Football Hall of Fame is doing something they've never done before. They are giving the fan a voice. Although the Hall's official board of selectors will have the final say, our votes will be heard with the results being announced live on the NFL Network.

To vote, go to fanschoice.com. You can vote one time per day.

Judging by the Featured Poll here on the right sidebar, as well as the current ranking on the fanschoice website, Emmitt is second behind a certain 49ers wide receiver.

He needs our support, Cowboys fans! I think you know who I'm voting for.

18,355 career rushing yards.

Vote Emmitt Smith!

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