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Cowboys countdown to kickoff: #22 Emmitt Smith

The Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants in Week 1. And we’re counting down to it by jersey numbers.

Dallas Coboys vs Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl XXVII Set Number: X43849 TK30 R18 F2

We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 22 and a historical number.
RB Emmitt Smith
Born: 15th May 1969 (54) - Pensacola, Florida
College: Florida Gators
Draft: 1990, Round 1, Pick 17, Dallas Cowboys

Career Stats:
Games Played: 226
Rush Attempts: 4,409
Rush Yds: 18,355
Rush TDs: 164
First Downs: 733
Receptions: 515
Rec Yds: 3,224
Rec TDs: 11

Career Awards:
3 x Super Bowl winner
Super Bowl MVP
NFL MVP Award (1993)
NFL Rookie of The Year(1990)
6 x All-Pro honors
8 x Pro Bowl honors
4 x NFL Rushing leader
NFL Scoring Leader (1995)
NFL 1990’s All Decade Team
Dallas Cowboys Ring Of Honor
NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame (2010)
Most career rushing yards (18,355)
Most career rushing touchdowns (164)
Most career rush attempts (4,409)
SEC MVP (1989)
3 x First-Team All-SEC

In 1987, Emmitt Smith accepted a scholarship at the University of Florida. He was initially not given the starting role during his freshman year, but that idea lasted only two games. Smith put on a display by going 109-yards on only ten carries during their Week 2 clash against Tulsa. The next week he was in the starting lineup.

His first game as a starter, Smith went for 224 yards and two touchdowns, and broke a 57-year old school record for most single-game rush yards. By the seventh game, he had broken the 1,000-yard rush yard mark, making him the fastest player to ever break that benchmark.

By Smith’s sophomore season, he was playing even better and averaging 120 yards a game. His season was cut short when he sprained his knee, but returned for the final few games. During the 1988 All-American Bowl, Smith was handed the ball on the first play of the game and went 55-yards for a touchdown.

His junior year at Florida would be his finest though. He finished the year breaking a number of Florida’s records. He had the most rushing yards in a season (1,599), breaking his own record for rushing yards in a single game (316), career rushing yards (3,928), career rushing yards per game (126.7) and career rushing touchdowns (36). There are a lot more records to name, in fact Smith owned 58 school records at the conclusion of his Florida career.

Smith entered the University of Florida Hall of Fame in 1999 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Believe it not, Smith was almost not a Dallas Cowboy during the 1990 NFL Draft. The Cowboys were ready to draft a linebacker, but that player was taken before the Cowboys pick which meant the front office went back to reconsider their choices. Opting to improve the run game, Emmitt Smith became the Cowboys selection. As a rookie, Smith rushed for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns, while being named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and receiving his first Pro Bowl nomination.

In 1991, Smith ran for 1,563 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, winning the first of his major rushing titles. By 1992, Smith was setting records again. First he set the Cowboys’ single-season franchise record and won another rushing title with 1,713 rush yards. He also became the first player to win the league’s rushing title and the Super Bowl in the same season. Later during an interview when the Cowboys visited London, he was asked which Super Bowl meant the most to him and his answer was simply, “nothing beats the first time”.

In 1993, Smith missed all of training camp and the first two regular season games in a holdout. Injuries and a fear of the season slipping away made the Cowboys come to an agreement with Smith which made him the highest paid running back in the league. Smith came out of the blocks fast and had 1,486 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, and helped the Cowboys become the first team to win a Super Bowl after starting the season 0-2. The Cowboys were repaid by Smith playing so well he received the league MVP. He also won the Super Bowl XXVIII MVP award that year. Having missed the start of the season, Smith still won another rushing title, and his efforts that year were above and beyond. One particular effort to highlight Smith’s toughness was when he separated his shoulder against the New York Giants. With the Cowboys desperate for a win to make the playoffs, Emmitt continued to play. He finished with 229 total yards and played a major role to win the game in overtime.

The next season, Smith rushed for 1,486 yards, and set a personal record of 21 rushing touchdowns on the season. The Cowboys would lose the NFC Championship game to the San Francisco 49ers that year, smashing their hopes of being the only team to win the Lombardi three years in a row.

In 1995, Smith became the first player in league history to rush for 1,400 rushing yards or more in five consecutive seasons. He would also set the NFL record with 25 rushing touchdowns, that record still ranks fourth-most to this day. He broke two Tony Dorsett records in most consecutive games in a season with 100+ rushing yards or more, and the single-season rushing yards (1,773). Both records would hold for 19 years until 2014, when DeMarco Murray rushed for 100+ yards in each of his first eight games and accumulated 1,845 rushing yards. Smith would score two touchdowns in that year’s Super Bowl helping Dallas to own five Super Bowls. They were also the first team to win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

In 1996, he scored his 100th career rushing touchdown and had over 10,000 career rushing yards, becoming just the twelfth player in league history, and the youngest player to do so. He then became the Cowboys’ all-time leading rusher, overtaking Tony Dorsett, and became the NFL’s all-time rushing touchdown leader in 1998. Then in 2002, he finished the season with 17,162 career yards and breaking Walter Payton’s record to become the NFL’s all-time rush leader.

In 2003, Smith moved to Arizona where he would play for two more seasons. Smith recalled returning to Texas to play against the Cowboys, calling it a low point for him personally. As he sat in the visitors locker room hearing the crowd noise above him, he burst into tears in the locker room. In and interview talking about that moment he said, “that’s my people up there”. At the end of the 2004 season, the greatest player to ever play the position signed a one-day contract with Dallas and retired.

Smith amassed many regular and post-season records, some of which will more than likely never be broken. He is a football icon, and will forever be remembered with Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman - “The Triplets”.

Smith remains a public figure performing many speeches on his time playing in the NFL or giving inspirational talks, as well as appearing in many celebrity shows or sportscasts. His son, E.J Smith, currently plays for the Stanford Cardinals and is hoping to follow his father’s footsteps.

SPORTS-FBN-COWBOYS-SMITH-FT Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

What’s your favorite memory of Emmitt Smith with the Dallas Cowboys?

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