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 Sweet As Can Be
Emmitt Smith explains the importance of passing Walter Payton for the all-time rushing record.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
ESPN Classic Tribute: Emmitt Smith


Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith became the NFL's all-time leading rusher on Sunday, gaining 109 against the Seahawks for 16,743 career yards, passing the great Walter Payton, who had held the mark with 16,726 since 1987. ESPN Classic celebrates Smith's achievement with a Classic Tribute to Emmitt Smith, presented by Campbell's Chunky Soup, on Thursday, Oct. 31 from 8 p.m. - 4 a.m. ET.

Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith stretches out for the record-breaking yardage against Seattle.
Smith finished with 109 yards on 24 carries, both season highs, in a 17-14 Seattle victory. Midway through his 13th season, Emmitt extended his NFL record for rushing touchdowns to 150 when he scored on a 1-yard plunge that tied it at 14 in the fourth quarter. Smith broke Payton's record for career carries earlier this season and topped his yardage record in his 193rd game; Payton played 190.

ESPN Classic Tribute: Emmitt Smith
Thursday, Oct. 31
8 p.m. - 4 a.m. ET

8 p.m./midnight - SportsCentury: Emmitt Smith

9 p.m./1 a.m. - Classic College Football
Florida State at Florida (1989)

Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith holds a trophy presented to him by team owner Jerry Jones.
Emmitt Smith rushes for 153 yards on 30 carries and scored Florida's final touchdown but the Gators lose to Florida State, 24-17. Smith, held by FSU to 56 yards on 15 carries the previous year, gained 92 in the first half and set up Stacey Simmons' second quarter TD with bursts of 39 and 17 yards.

FSU's Peter Tom Willis threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Inexperience at quarterback hurt Smith's Gators, who saw freshman Donald Douglas complete only four of 12 passes for 54 yards before Lex Smith replaced him in the fourth quarter.

10:30 p.m./2:30 a.m. - 1992 Dallas Cowboys Yearbook
Emmitt Smith gained 1,713 yards and scored 19 touchdowns as Dallas went 13-3. The Cowboys then charged through the playoffs, with Smith running for more than 100 yards in each game. They blew out the Buffalo Bills, 52-17, in Super Bowl XXVII as Smith rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown.

11 p.m./3 a.m. - 1993 Dallas Cowboys Yearbook
Despite playing only 14 games, Smith won his third consecutive rushing title, with 1,486 yards, as he averaged 5.3 per carry, the only time he averaged more than five yards in his career. The Associated Press voted him MVP. The season ended with another Super Bowl title as Smith keyed Dallas' 30-13 victory over Buffalo. Running for 132 yards on 30 carries and two second-half touchdowns, he earned the game's MVP award.

11:30 p.m./3:30 a.m. - 1995 Dallas Cowboys Yearbook
Smith broke John Riggins' NFL record for touchdowns with 25 (all running) and regained the rushing title with a franchise-record 1,773 yards. Smith also earned his third Super Bowl ring as the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17.

What They're Saying about Emmitt Smith

  • "The Lord has blessed me with talent, instilled me with the drive and determination to be successful and to want to play the game with love and passion. I feel love and passion for you guys as well." -- Smith, addressing fans in his opening remarks during postgame ceremony.

  • "This is as great of a moment for me and my family as it is for you." -- Eddie Payton, Walter's brother, to Smith.

  • "This is about heart, about character." -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

  • "I-formation, two receivers right. Second-and-7 from at the Dallas 30. Hutchinson handoff Smith at left guard -- 35-, 40-yard-line! (pause) Right on the mark! That should do it! Move over, Sweetness! Make a place for Emmitt!" -- Longtime Cowboys play-by-play announcer Brad Sham's call of the record-breaking run.

  • "No one is more worthy to succeed Walter Payton as the all-time NFL rushing leader than Emmitt Smith. He kept a photo of Walter Payton in his high school locker and then came to embody the qualities -- both athletic and personal -- that were so admired in Walter. Now Emmitt takes Walter's place in the record book, and the NFL could not be more proud." -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

  • "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." -- Jarrett Payton, son of the late Walter Payton.

  • "He's such a good husband and father that I forget how good of a football player he is, and how hard he's worked to get here," -- Smith's wife, Pat Smith.

  • "We all want to thank Emmitt for allowing us to enjoy every yard." -- former teammate Michael Irvin.

  • "I speak for all the guys who have blocked for Emmitt Smith. We did it because of what kind of person he was, not just what kind of football player he was. You talk about great players making everyone around them better. That couldn't be more true of anybody than Emmitt Smith." -- former fullback Daryl Johnston, now a TV color analyst.

  • "Thirteen years ago, a rookie walked into my room. He was my roomate. We talked about the things we wanted to accomplish on the football field.
    "The first thing he said to me -- and we were not a good team at the time -- was he wanted to win Super Bowls for you guys. And he did that.
    "He said he wanted to win rushing titles, and he did that. "He said he wanted to win MVPs, and he did that. "His last goal, which I thought was a fantasy, was to become the all-time leading rusher in the NFL. And today he did that." -- Irvin.

  • "He personifies everything that's good about football. He's a gentleman, a good guy and a great player." -- Seattle coach Mike Holmgren.

  • "He wanted to be a legend in the game. He's accomplished that." -- Marcus Allen, who's seventh on the all-time rushing yardage list.

  • "I'm glad it's behind me." -- Smith.





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