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Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record withstands another challenger as Frank Gore retires

The all-time rushing record belongs to Emmitt Smith, and no one is really getting close.

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are in sore need of a new banner at AT&T Stadium and we’re all hoping that they will win a Super Bowl someday soon to add to their current collection. Perhaps 2022 is finally the year that ends the drought.

The Dallas Cowboys preserve their banner-hanging celebrations for landmark achievements like world championships. The one exception for America’s Team is a worthy one as there is a banner in their building paying homage to franchise great Emmitt Smith being the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

Smith passed Walter Payton for the NFL’s all-time rushing crown 20 years ago this October and officially has 18,355 of them to his name. Payton held the title for 23 years before he had to move over and make a place for Smith (in the immortal words of Brad Sham) and many have devoted time these last two decades to wondering who could one day climb higher than Smith did.

Frank Gore, one of the greatest threats to Emmitt Smith’s record, is retiring from the NFL

Many running backs have shown promise early in their careers and looked like potential threats to the rushing title. The reason this particular record is so coveted is because it is in many ways a mark of survival. Being a running back in the NFL for even 10 years nowadays is not a given, let alone being one with high levels of production year in and year out.

One of the more amazing notes about Smith’s career is that he had at least 1,000 rushing yards in 11 consecutive seasons. When you add them all up they obviously generate a stack bigger than anybody else’s.

While Walter Payton is second in the history books behind Smith, the person directly behind him is Frank Gore. The San Francisco 49ers selected Gore during the 2005 NFL Draft, the first year that Emmitt Smith was officially retired from football, so the league has had Emmitt or Frank running through it since 1990.

Gore has lasted a long time while bouncing through multiple teams after a storied run with San Francisco. He finished the 2020 season with 16,000 career rushing yards and this weekend officially announced his own retirement.

Gore did not play throughout the 2021 season but obviously could have potentially found a home for this coming season. He is 2,356 yards behind Emmitt Smith though so he would likely need a few more years of service if he truly wanted a chance to fully own the title.

Gore’s last season with 1,000 rushing yards was all the way back in 2016 and came with the Indianapolis Colts. You would actually have to add up his production from the next four seasons (time spent with the Colts, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and New York Jets) to give him the necessary 2,356 yards that he would need to pass Smith.

The reality for Gore, assuming he cares about the title, is that it just isn’t conceivable to think he could get that much production in a few years, especially after not playing in 2021. Father Time comes for everyone.

With Frank Gore out of the picture the next-biggest threat to Smith’s record is Adrian Peterson who has 14,918 rushing yards and did play in 2021, although that is being somewhat generous. AD suited up for both the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks this past season and didn’t even hit 100 rushing yards on the season through his time with both teams.

If you are curious, the next-biggest threats after Peterson as far as active players are concerned are Mark Ingram (7,878 career rushing yards) and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (7,386). Smith’s record feels safe for the time being.