Back in January of 1992, I was an 11-year-old going through the sixth grade. My family had moved from Atlanta to Dallas (Southlake, TX) a couple years prior. Before we had even finalized our move, Dad purchased Cowboys season tickets for our entire family. I remember not being too thrilled about becoming Cowboys fan considering the team finished 1-15 the season before we got our tickets. (Plus they sucked in Tecmo Bowl). After two seasons of attending all the Cowboys home games, I had taken a strong liking to my new team. My Dad had developed relationships with some key Cowboys personnel (including Jimmy Johnson) because he had helped install a wireless radio system inside Texas Stadium. These relationships enabled us to partake in some amazing experiences. One of those experiences was getting tickets to Super Bowl XXVI Redskins - Bills.
We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get tickets to attend the Super Bowl. The tickets came through at the last minute, so we had to scramble to get our travel plans in order. My Dad, Mom, older brother and I were all on the same flight, but none of use were sitting together. I was sitting by myself and had planned on finishing up some homework on the flight. I got settled into my seat next to the window and was pleased to see that the seat next to me was empty. As the crowded flight neared departure, a guy sat down next to me. He looked strangely familiar, but I was sure I had never met him. He was not very tall, but his legs were the size of tree trunks. He had some tasteful jewelry, including a necklace consisting of a gold chain and a gold Cowboys helmet. As a shy 11-year-old, I was hesitant to ask this man if he was Emmitt Smith. I mustered up some courage and asked, "Are you Emmitt Smith?" and he replied "Yes I am." I was blown away! I could not believe I was sitting next to a Dallas Cowboy and NFL star! My next response was, "Can you sign my notebook?" Emmitt borrowed my pen and signed a blank sheet of paper I had in my math notebook. I couldn't believe my good fortune, so I had to share the good news with my family. I asked Emmitt to excuse me as I squeezed past him into the aisle. I rushed to where my dad was sitting and told him, "Dad, I am sitting next to Emmitt Smith!" He brushed off my enthusiasm and said “No you’re not.” I assured him I was, so he said, “Stay here in my seat and let me go see.” Well, Dad never came back to confirm that I was correct, but I can’t really blame him. He spent the rest of the flight talking with Emmitt, and even let my older brother sit next to him for a little while. After we had exited the plane and were collecting our luggage from baggage claim, Emmitt came over to my family and game me and my older brother some signed prototype Emmitt Smith trading cards. I am not sure what eventually happened to my signed piece of notebook paper. Nobody back in school believed my story, but both my brother and I still have those cards as reminders of a very special moment in our lives.
Emmitt was always a class act, even before he had achieved all of the success and accolades in his Hall of Fame career. Congratulations Emmitt! In the few small minutes I spent with you, you touched my life and left me with a wonderful memory and a special treasure that I still cherish.