|NFL Crowns New Rushing King|
Date: Oct. 27, 2002
Before his rookie season, Emmitt Smith set a goal of becoming the NFL's career rushing yardage record holder before he retired. An 11-yard run with 9:10 remaining in Sunday's contest against the Seattle Seahawks pushed him past that goal and into NFL immortality.
With that fourth-quarter run, the Dallas Cowboys running back reached 16,728 yards, passing the late Walter Payton to become No. 1 on the all-time list. Moments later, Smith extended his NFL record for rushing touchdowns to 150 with a one-yard plunge that tied the game. Earlier in the season, Smith also broke Payton's record for career carries.
Emmitt Smith finished the game with 109 yards on 24 carries and recorded six runs of at least 10 yards. His longest run of the day was for 14 yards. But the game ended on a sour note for Smith who watched from the sidelines as Seattle's Rian Lindell kicked a 20-yard field goal with 25 seconds left to give the Seahawks a 17-14 victory.
Payton, who played his entire career for the Chicago Bears, died in November of 1999 from a rare liver disease, but his widow Connie had words of praise for the future Hall of Famer.
"I am so proud of you, Emmitt," she said in a videotaped message. "Your hard work and determination, your being true to the game, are a part of your success. I feel we're truly blessed having you as a friend and part of our life."
Payton's family has been supportive of Smith in his chase of the record, especially son Jarrett who sees Smith as a mentor. After the game he said, "I was kind of sorry to see it go, but I guess it was time. If it had to be anyone, I'm glad it's him."
Payton took over the rushing record in 1984, passing Jim Brown, who finished his career with 12,312 yards.
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Ex-teammate Michael Irvin said after the game, "Thirteen years ago, a rookie walked into my room." "He said he wanted to get Super Bowl rings and did it. He said he wanted to win rushing titles and he did it. And he said he wanted to be the all-time leading rusher in the NFL."
"Today, he did that."
Among Smith's greatest accomplishments and awards are:
• Three Super Bowl Championships
• 1993 NFL Most Valuable Player
• Super Bowl XXVIII MVP
• Four Rushing Titles
• Nine Pro Bowl Selections
• 11 straight seasons with 1,000 yards
• Eight Seasons With 10 Touchdowns
• 74 100-yard rushing games in the NFL
• 25 100-yard rushing games at the University of Florida
• 45 100-yard rushing games at Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia High School
Of course, Emmitt's place among the NFL's greatest is debatable, but there is no doubt he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and there is certainly no classier individual to ever wear an NFL uniform.
"It's been a 13-year journey." said Smith. "One that has ended but still traveling today. I'm just still moving on and don't plan on stopping no time soon."
So what does Emmitt Smith do when he has attained nearly every goal he set out to accomplish?
"One... he don't quit, he creates a new dream", says Emmitt. "Two... he stays motivated because he loves the game not because he loved breaking records. Three... he's trying to win; win more games so we can get back to the playoffs and get another big 'ol banner up in the stadium again."
"You play the game to win Super Bowls. That's why you're in the National Football league. Everything else in between that happens because you've been here a long time, and if you're fortunate enough to get one of those things you want it again. And I want to win another one with the team I'm with right now."
And so, Emmitt Smith rolls on...