b The Longhorn Mafia <$BlogRSDURL$>

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Football: Good-Bye to a Great One 

Will Emmitt Smith retire tomorrow? Various reports say yes, though Smith has denied the rumors.

Barring the unexpected, it appears as though one of the NFL's greatest careers has come to an end. I would side with many fans, who think Smith should hung up his cleats two years ago, but at the same time it's hard to fault a competitor for wanting to grind ahead.

That was the hallmark of Emmitt Smith's career -- grinding out yards. He didn't have the moves or speed of a Barry Sanders, but he also had qualities that superceded those of his contemporaries: vision, determination and toughness. Everyone remembers the final week of the 1993 season, when Smith put the Cowboys' postseason fate on his shoulder, literally, en route to a 16-13 win against New York. Weeks later Smith won the Super Bowl MVP in Dallas' back-to-back championship victory.

It's three other moments stand out to me in his storied career. The first came on his first carry of the 1995 season. Emmitt took a handoff and blew through the line into the open field. By the time he reached the endzone at Giants Stadium, there wasn't a New York defender even close. So much for the knock on his speed.

Later that season the Cowboys traveled to Atlanta to play the Falcons. On one run it appeared that the Falcons defense had Emmitt stopped for a big loss. Then Smith reversed field and ran into another wall of Falcons. By the time he reversed again he managed to hit the corner, bowl past a defender, and sprint the remaining 30 or 40 yards for the touchdown. So much for the knock on his moves.

The final play that sticks out to me didn't end up in the endzone. Well, Emmitt did, but he didn't score. In the waning moments of 1996's season-opening loss to Chicago, Dallas faked a handoff to Emmitt. Now a veteran on the downside of his prime, he ignored the futility of the 22-6 deficit and leaped over the goalline pile, landing on his neck. What looked like a serious injury, though, kept him out of action for just a week. That was typical Emmitt Smith determination.

Critics will contend that Emmitt, despite his all-time rushing record, wasn't as good as Barry Sanders or Walter Payton or Jim Brown. Maybe that's true. What's also true is that Emmitt has three championship rings and the aforementioned trio of talent combined for just two. Sure Emmitt had a great supporting cast, but in 1993, during a contract dispute, the Boys started 0-2 without Emmitt in the lineup. They lost just twice after he returned, and ultimately won the Super Bowl.

With the game on the line, there's no one I would have rather seen in the backfield than Emmitt Smith. He played football the way it should be played. He gave a maximum effort and came through when his team needed him. He personified the greatness of the Dallas Cowboys as much as any other player in franchise history. And yes, he will be missed.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?