Emmitt Smith Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 7, 2010
START OF PRESENTER VIDEO
Jerry Jones (presenter): Emmitt Smith is Dallas Cowboy royality. He’s NFL royalty. Emmitt Smith’s about durability. He’s about dependability. He’s got the heart of a champion. I think it’s fair to say that a runner of his kind will not be seen again. No one will perform at that position, with that type of production, for that length of time again. It’s just too hard to do.
Our plan on draft day was to get a defensive player, and we had a couple of them in mind. And then if we drafted and had an opportunity with our second pick—get a bigger back—a pounding back. Of course, it was obvious as we sit here today that Emmitt was a pounding back. He knew and we all felt that he was gonna be a part of a team that was a championship team. Emmitt changed the game for the Dallas Cowboys.
Narrator (Steve Sabol):
Emmitt Smith was an indispensable part of the Dallas Cowboys team that won three Super Bowl titles in four years. He is the NFL all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. And in 1993, he became the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl, lead the league in rushing, be named league MVP and also be named Super Bowl MVP all in the same season.
We were behind at halftime against Buffalo, in Atlanta, Georgia, for the second Super Bowl. Emmitt came out in the second half and made three running plays. When he made those plays, he went right to the heart of the matter and the heart of the Buffalo Bills as well. That closed the door to score that touchdown. When he went into the end zone, I started heading to the field for the celebration. He had his goal, he could see where he wanted to be and that was contagious.
Emmitt knew he was going to break the rushing record. Emmitt walks the walk. He not only is a man of conviction and a man of goals, but he wants to get there the right way. No short cuts for him. It wasn’t that way on the field and he wasn’t that way off the field. He knows every minute is a gift, and he gets the most out of it. Now that fires me up.
Where does a guy like Emmitt Smith come from? You can start with his mother, Mary, and her influence relative to setting goals and work ethic. You can start with his daddy, Emmitt. That is about toughness, continuing to strive, get up when you’ve been knocked down. Emmitt Smith was blessed to have great parents and great parental coaching.
Emmitt Smith evokes in my heart and in my mind God’s will of taking advantage of every gift that you’ve been given. He hasn’t left a yard on the table of his life. He was a pro football player’s football player. He always showed up and gave you everything he had. Emmitt Smith is someone who’s a source of great pride for an entire generation of Dallas Cowboy football fans. The Pro Football Hall of Fame would not be complete without Emmitt Smith.
I am honored to present Emmitt Smith for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
END OF VIDEO
Thank you to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for blessing me to play the sport I so dearly love for almost three decades.
It is an honor to have achieved this level of success. Now I need to take a moment to reflect upon the people who have helped shape the foundation of who I am as a man and also a football player.
Whatever achievements I've earned over the course of my life clearly have not been due to (indiscernible), but also due to the belief and dedication of so many, the values and skills taught by my family, friends, teachers, coaches and mentors were fundamental to shaping me into the man I am today.
At the age of 21, I already knew what I needed to do in order to make my mark. I wanted to become the all-time leading rusher. I knew Walter Payton was one of the best to have ever played the game, and I wanted to achieve that level of greatness.
He established an insurmountable record to shoot for. He was the prototype for me as a champion athlete and runningback. He had my size, he was my build. He had a heart that said, I can achieve, I will achieve, I will be successful.
Now here I am standing at the same podium he did, being inducted into the 2010 Hall of Fame. And you know what, I am, I am, I am now the all-time leading rusher (smiling). Wow, what an honor.
A profound thank you to Mr. Jerry Jones and the Jones family for believing in a kid from Pensacola, Florida, who was 5'9" and a half, who people said was not big enough or fast enough action and for giving me opportunities to play for the team that I always wanted to play for, America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys.
This team means more to me than just another professional football team. That's why I always did everything in my power to help make this organization and team the very best it could possibly be. So, Jerry, thank you for believing in me as a football player and knowing that I can get the job done.
But, Jerry, because I am a man of faith, I know our relationship did not happen by accident. I know it was ordained by God. And because of this, He has predestined me to do great things in life. The Dallas Cowboys have given me that platform. That's one of the reasons why I love this organization and the Jones family so much. Because what you have been able to do for my family and me throughout my football career and to this day, thank you so much.
Thank you to my high school coach Dwight Thomas for teaching me how to set goals, become a team player, and to shine the spotlight upon others such as my offensive linemen. Thank you to Jimmy Nichols, my offensive coordinator out of high school. You pushed me and helped make me into the runningback I became. You set the foundation by teaching me I could never carry the football for you or anyone else if I fumbled. You made it very clear to me that the football was the most important thing on the football field. Both Dwight Thomas and Jimmy Nichols pushed me to a level of greatness at an early age. I began to realize what it would take for me to become successful. I also understood that my job and my role as a teammate had to be fulfilled by all the work that we all put in to what we was trying to get accomplished. So thank you, guys. From Escambia High School to this point for being there and helping me get to this point.
Thank you to Norv Turner for bringing a system that allowed Michael, Troy, me and our offense to flourish. Thank you to Jimmy Johnson for bringing discipline, focus, commitment and your expectation to our team. You propelled us to do great things in life. You set the bar very high and not only demanded that we leaped over it, but, Jimmy, you showed us how. You knew your players were capable of achieving the standard you set for us. You knew we could claim our greatness. It's what drove us to become the team we became.
Thank you to all of the fans, especially the Dallas Cowboys fans in Dallas, throughout the United States and around the world. You have always been there supporting us. When things got rough and we needed your energy, you provided it. When we became victorious, it was your energy that lifted us as you celebrated with us. Without a doubt, you are as much a part of America's Team as the players are.
To Michael and Troy, would you both please stand. It has truly, truly, truly been an honor to go into battle with two of the greatest champions I've ever played with. Without you there is no me. That is why we are called the triplets. You cannot have one without the other.
Troy, your leadership, dedication and focus helped me become a better football player because I did not want to let you down.
Michael, your work ethic, your passion, your love for this sport helped me learn to train and prepare myself differently.
Thank you both for the invaluable contributions you have made to my life.
Daryl Johnston, where are you? Will you please stand? You mean the world to me (tearing up) not just because we shared the same backfield, but because you sacrificed so much for me. People don't understand what it took to be a fullback in our system, the sacrifices you made not simply with your body but your whole spirit. You took care of me as though you were taking care of your little brother. Without you, without you, I know today would not have been possible. I love you from the bottom of my heart.
When I was six years old, I was watching the Dallas Cowboys on television with my father and some of our relatives. I clearly remember turning to my father and saying, One day I'm going to play professional football and I'm going to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
My father turned to me and said, sure, that would be a good goal for you to have, son. But after that night, I began to dream about it. My father's words supported me. His words gave me the permission I needed to live in the dream. I began to feed the dream with my passion and dedication. I loved the sport so much, all I wanted to do was just play it. It didn't matter to me what position I played; I just loved being out there.
From that young age, many factors were already present in contributing to the fulfillment of my dream. For example, I began to play football in the park with my older cousins, Morris, Tim and Jeffrey, Jerome and Edward, across the street from my grandmother's house.
Now, in 1990, I'm on the verge of doing something I always wanted to do as a child: Play professional football. However, the Dallas Cowboys did not have a pick in the top 10. I was projected to go in the top 10. Had I been chosen when I thought I would be, I very likely would have been drafted by Tampa Bay or Seattle: Not the team of my childhood dream.
But pick after pick went by and I fell into the bottom half of the top 20. I was down in Pensacola watching the draft with my family agonizing about why didn't I go in the top 10? Then, finally, words start blowing in the wind, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to move up and make a trade. They had moved up to pick me as the 17th pick in the first round. Here I am thinking, Wow, how awesome this would be, how great it would be to be able to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Then I got a call from Jimmy Johnson saying, Emmitt, how would you like to wear a star on your helmet? My dreams, my passion, my emotions were running so high. Jerry, I could not believe that this was actually happening to me.
While playing for the Dallas Cowboys, balance was the key to our success. We had a winning strategy and a spiritual purpose as a team. We also had a collective goal, mental toughness and trust. When it came down to the third and fourth quarters, my offensive linemen knew what was about to go down. Right now I would like to thank them. If you're in the audience as I call out your name, would you please stand.
Andre Gurode, Derek Kannard, Flosell Adams, Larry Allen, Frank Cornish, Ron Stone, John Gesek, George Hegman, Erik Williams, Everett McIvar, Kelvin Garmon, Kevin Gogan, Mark Stepnoski, and the late Mark Tuinei who obviously cannot be here. Nate Newton, Ray Donaldson, and Solomon Page. The names I have not mentioned, you know who you are. Thank you for blessing me with the running lanes you created. You were the very best I ever ran behind.
In addition to the acknowledgments I am privileged to make today, this moment creates a unique opportunity, an opportunity to share critical life principles. The first and most important principle is to be of service. The hardest service is for everyone. The second principle is we all need a championship strategy to guide us to help make those dreams come true. The third principle is, claim your inner champion. When you claim your inner champion, you will learn to see, hear and feel differently than others. So what I most want to convey here is, never, never let others define you; you define yourself.
Now let's talk about some specific steps I took that were critical to sustaining my vision. There's a difference between merely having a dream and fulfilling a vision. Most people only dream. I only not had my childhood dream, but I did everything in my power to fulfill it.
For example, I wrote down my goals and how I was going to achieve them because Dwight Thomas used to tell us, It's only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal. By the time I was 20, I wrote, I want to play in the Super Bowl, be the MVP, become the all-time leading rusher, and finish college, because I promised my mother I would.
Over the course of my career, all of those things came to pass, and I know that writing down my goals was an essential strategy.
Another critical principle is consistency. Consistency shows value. Consistency is necessary for trust, durability and longevity. You have to show up every week no matter how difficult the game or life might be.
I not only showed consistency, but I did everything in my power to be the best that I possibly could. Over time consistency will allow you to achieve your goals.
Next is balance. As I stated earlier, balance was the key to our success. We had all the balance you could possibly have. I exhibit balance in my personal life when I put my family in its proper place, and that is number one.
Standing before you today, I know this is real. I know it's not a dream. But it almost feels surreal. When I was told on February 6th that I was being inducted into the 2010 Hall of Fame, I was struck by a vision. I actually saw the clouds parting and a door opening. I saw all of these Hall of Famers here and the ones who have passed on before us standing with their arms open wide welcoming me into the hall. Perhaps all of you have been wondering why I have not yet spoken of my family. God has blessed me with an amazing family. And as I call out your names, would you please stand.
My father Emmitt James Smith, Jr., my mother, Mary Smith.My sisters Marsha and Connie. My brothers, Eric, Emory, and my late brother Emil. My brothers-in-law Victor and Rick. My sister-in-law Pam. And to Mr. Henry Southall, my loving father-in-law. I will continue to do everything in my power to keep your daughter and my wife safe and happy. Thank you all for your love and your support. You may be seated.
To my beautiful wife Pat, would you please stand. Thank you for smoothing off some of the rough edges and showing me how to become a better man. You complete me, babe. You make everything that I have worth living for. I love you so much.
To my kids, Jasmine, Rheagan, EJ, Skylar, and my soon-to-be fifth child, I love all of you very, very much. I apologize if I cannot be there for everything, but please know this: Dad is doing the very best that he can. Thank you.
Before closing, I would like to share one final story with you. Some time ago I had an older person come up to me and he said, Do you know who is the greatest runningback out of Pensacola that nobody has ever seen?
Well, I played in the National Football League and I had accomplished quite a bit. I thought perhaps he was talking about me. However, he went on to explain, your father was a heck of a running back. This was a revelation to me. Of course, I knew my father had played ball, but I never knew he was that good.
Now fast forward in time to February the 6th, the day before Super Bowl XLIV there we were, my father and I sitting together. When he turned to me and said, Son, I am so proud of you, I had dreams of doing what you're doing, but my mom got sick and I never did get a chance to go to college. He said, You're living my dreams, you're living my dream. And all I could think about was, I'm living your dream, I'm fulfilling my dream, and I'm fulfilling God's purpose for my life.
Now when I go into the hall today, I'm not going in alone. You see, I'm carrying my grandfather, I'm carrying my father, and I'm carrying my son along with me because I bear all of their names.
Now I can say to my dad and my son EJ, our name will be forever enshrined in the history of football. Thank you for being here today to share this experience with me and may God truly bless all of you.