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Emmitt Smith’s Remarkable Career in the NFL


The arrival of Emmitt Smith improved the Dallas Cowboys. From breaking individual records to helping them win the Super Bowl, he left an indelible mark on the team and the game. The running back impacted the team’s offense and was a four-time rushing leader.

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Smith was a high school star and was one of the best running backs in NFL history. We look into his life and career.

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Emmitt Smith’s Early Life

Emmitt Smith’s Remarkable Career in the NFL
Pro Football Hall of Fame. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Emmitt Smith was born on 15 May 1969 in Pensacola, Florida. He got into organized football at an early age and began to hone his skills. The player is an alumnus of Escambia High School and represented them in football and track & field.

He broke the high school yardage record, making 106 touchdowns and 8,804 yards. In 45 out of 49 games, the athlete scored 100 yards, crossing the 2000 mark twice. On track, Smith was in the 4 by 100 meters. 

Smith was named the High School Player of the Year. In 2007, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) inducted him into the All-Team Century and Player of the Century. Even though he was the best player in high school, some doubted his capabilities to succeed in college football because of his stature.

The average height of an NFL player is 6 foot 2 inches. Smith stands at 5 foot 9 inches.

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College Career

Emmitt Smith’s Remarkable Career in the NFL
Emmitt Smith on stage. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Smith’s heroics continued in college. He joined the University of Florida and broke the school’s record for rushing yards in a single game, carrying 39 times in 224 yards. In that season, the running back crossed the 1000-yard barrier and finished that season with 1,349 yards.

This performance earned him the National Freshman of the Year accolade. In the subsequent seasons, he set more records, finishing his university career with 58, including: 

  • Rushing yards in a single game 
  • Rushing yards in a season (1,599)
  • Career rushing yards (3, 928)  

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Professional NFL Career

Emmitt Smith talking about his career. Video Credit: Audiorama

In 1990, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Emmitt Smith as a first-round pick 17 in the NFL draft. He produced a memorable season, making 937 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

For 12 years, Smith broke multiple records in the league. He scooped his first rushing yards leader title in his second season after making 1,563 rushing yards. The following year, the running back made a franchise record with 1,713 yards and also won the Super Bowl (XXVII), becoming the first player to achieve both.

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Second Super Bowl and More Records

In 1993, the Dallas Cowboys made him the highest-earning running back. Smith returned the favor, making 1,486 yards and 9 touchdowns. He led the Cowboys to a second Super Bowl (XXVIII), recovering from a 2-0 defeat at the beginning of the season. 

Two seasons later, Smith crossed the 1,400 rushing yards mark and scored 25 touchdowns to make the NFL record. He broke records of former player, Tony Dorsett by reaching more than 100 touchdowns (TD) in the first eight games, making 1773 rushing yards. He also won his third Super Bowl championship.

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Final Two Seasons at the Dallas Cowboys

The following season, Smith became one of the few players to make over 10,000 career rushing yards and the youngest to achieve this record. Two years later, the running back was the team’s and the league’s all-time rushing leader.

In 2001, Smith extended his record becoming the first player to make 11 consecutive 1000 yards. In his last season, he broke Walter Payton’s record, finishing the season with 17, 162 career yards.

Arizona Cardinals 

In 2003, Emmitt Smith joined the Arizona Cardinals after the Cowboys coach released him. He had a mixed first season, as injury hampered him. Nonetheless, Smith finished the season with 256 rushing yards. 

The following year, Smith scored 937 yards and 9 touchdowns. During the 2005 season, Emmitt Smith announced his retirement from the NFL. The running back still holds the following records:

  • All-time leader of rushing attempts: 4, 409
  • All-time leader of rushing touchdowns: 164
  • Highest number of rushing yards: 18, 355

In 2010, Smith was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was an eight-time Pro Bowl

Life After NFL

Emmitt Smith continues to achieve more success after his career. He’s worked with numerous networks and appeared on several television shows:

Emmitt Smith surpassed his doubters expectations. He was one of the best running backs in the game having set multiple records that still stand. 

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