When I was in the shower this morning, something hit me. No it wasn’t the idea for the flux capacitor which will enable time travel. It was something much more profound than that. What if the greatest running back in the history of the Dallas Cowboys was the guy who was currently the team’s running back? Could we be witnessing a true Cowboys legend in the early stage of his career?
Now, I understand that when I decided to put these thoughts into an article that it would come with a lot of head shaking. Some will think I’m bunny-in-the-pot crazy and have already migrated to the comment section to let me know about it. Can you blame them? After all, Cowboys’ great Emmitt Smith is not only the top rusher in franchise history, but he’s the NFL’s all-time leading rusher as well. Rumor has it, he’s pretty good. Of course, there was a time early in Smith’s career where his greatness was just being realized and some fans were starting to make similar claims about him. Cowboys historians would simply tell them to simmer down and reminded them that Tony Dorsett played for this team as well. When Emmitt joined the Cowboys, Dorsett was the second all-time leading rusher in the NFL, trailing only Walter Payton.
Sure, it’s super early to be making these types of claims, but I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t entered my mind.
Before I continue any further, I want to give a little background on the author to help provide a little perspective.
Regarding Ezekiel Elliott:
It’s only fair to point out that I love this guy so much. As someone who typically would balk at the idea of using a premium draft pick on a running back, I simply fell head over heels for him when I reviewed a lot of his tape prior to the 2016 draft. There are so many things to like about him. His speed, his toughness, his decision making - he’s got all the tools. So full disclosure - this fan has some heavy bias going on here.
Regarding Emmitt Smith:
I have been in many debates involving who’s the best ever running back. Everyone has their own favorite - Walton Payton, Jim Brown, and Eric Dickerson to name a few. But the battle I usually end up dealing with the most is Barry Sanders vs. Emmitt Smith. Now clearly, I’m a huge Cowboys fan and have a built in bias for Emmitt. And while I know I am incapable of being completely objective, I firmly believe Emmitt is the most complete back the league has ever seen. He’s not the fastest, he’s not the toughest, and he doesn’t have the “stop on a dime” cuts that Sanders had, but Smith does so many things extremely well. He’s a player that knows how to get you one yard on third and inches. He can catch passes out of the backfield and block in pass protection. Mr. Smith is no stranger to the highlight reel himself when it comes to eluding defenders and breaking off big runs. And let’s not forget how resilient he is. You don’t have a 15-year career at a grueling position without being a tough guy.
So, my love for Emmitt is pretty high.
Fun little side story...
During my bachelor party many years ago, my friends and I were all out bowling, because yeah - that’s the rockstar lifestyle I live on the eve of the biggest day of my life. We all had football jerseys on because the guys I consider my closest friends are also football junkies. My jersey of choice that night was Emmitt Smith. Whenever we got a strike, we had to do some type of celebration dance (yes, there was a little drinking involved). Some dance moves were Michael Jackson-esque and some were more goofy like something Leslie Nielson would do in the Naked Gun movies.
Needless to say, we drew a lot of attention towards ourselves that night. In the lane next to us was a group of girls bowling. This cute little blonde girl kept looking over at me. Was she impressed with my bowling skills? Was my dance moves catching her eye? She finally built up enough courage to talk to me and asked, “did we go to high school together?” [what a cheesy line to break the ice, but hey - the ice is broken] I replied with “I don’t think so.” She said, “aren’t you Ernie Smith?”
It was that point I realized that all the looks I was getting was because she was trying to determine if I was that Ernie guy she went to school with and the “E. SMITH” name on the back of my jersey helped push her in that direction. Come on, man - you telling me you don’t know who Emmitt Smith is? Oh well, she definitely wasn’t a football fan.
There is a lot of football to be played before this conversation starts having serious meaning, but let’s just put a pin in it for now. Zeke will break DeMarco Murray franchise rushing record and it may happen sooner versus later. When Elliott is running wild over the league, winning the MVP, and hoisting that Lombardi trophy over his head, it won’t take too long before he starts drawing comparisons to a Cowboys legend. And when fans start seeing this and jump on the Zeke train make sure you give me a little wave - I’ll be the guy sitting in the front.