The Dallas Cowboys were rebuilding when they selected Florida running back Emmitt Smith in the first round of the 1990 draft. After a holdout during all of training camp and preseason of his rookie season, Smith reported to the Cowboys in time for the start of the regular season. He wasted no time in proving he was going to be a huge part of the team’s future.
Smith rushed for 937 yards and scored 11 touchdowns to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and the first of eight career Pro Bowl nods. He followed that season by rushing for a league-leading 1,563 yards. Smith won four rushing crowns during a five-year span as he added titles in 1992, 1993, and 1995. He also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns three times and contributed 277 pass receptions during that same five-season period.
His best year came in 1995 when he recorded career highs for rushing yards (1,773), rushing touchdowns (25), and receptions (62).
Not surprisingly, Smith’s impact on the team helped nurture the Cowboys back to the top of the NFL. The Cowboys, with their star runner leading the way, won three Super Bowls over four seasons from 1992 to 1995. Smith was named first-team All-Pro in each year during that four-year period. In 1993, he was named the NFL’s MVP and followed that by earning Most Valuable Player honors in the Cowboys’ 30-13 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII.
After narrowly missing the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, Smith embarked on a record run of 11 straight seasons with 1,000 yards rushing. His streak came to end in Smith’s final season in Dallas in 2002 when he missed the 1,000-yard mark by a mere 25 yards. However, that season was highlighted by one particular game against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 27, 2002. In that contest, Smith supplanted Walter Payton as the NFL’s all-time rushing leader.
Smith, who was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, finished his 226-game career by playing two final seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He retired with a career total of 18,355 yards and a NFL record 164 rushing touchdowns. He also added 515 receptions for 3,224 yards and 11 touchdowns.
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