Sunday, August 8, 2010

Loving #22, Hating #80 - Respecting Greatness

(Jerry Rice: Can you believe we ended our career in THESE uniforms? Emmitt Smith: Just smile and pretend that by 2010, nobody will remember.)

Growing up as a Cowboys fan in the 1990's, two things were clear. 1) You hated the 49ers and couldn't wait til the Cowboys gave them the business in the regular season or postseason. 2) You knew Emmitt Smith would rush for over 1,300 yards and double digit touchdowns and you always believed he was better than Barry Sanders.

I hated Jerry Rice because he was unstoppable and I loved when Deion Sanders or somebody shut him down. Reading Jeff Pearlman's book on the 90's Cowboys (Boys Will Be Boys), I was happy when I read Kevin Smith mouth off to him as a rookie. Showing up the game's best WR even though he still had a good day - priceless moment of the rivalry.

Smith was my favorite player on those Cowboys. The first year I started watching football closely in 1995, he rushed for an NFL record 25 TD's. I just liked watching him for no particular reason, he had the ball most of the time and he was going to do something with it. My favorite Emmitt moments:

1) Jan 2, 1994 - the one armed game against the Giants to clinch the NFC East. 229 total yards despite a separated shoulder and they needed everyone.
2) Opening Night 1995, Monday Night Football - 1st play of the game, 60 yard-run for a touchdown. I remember going nuts over that!
3) Christmas Day 1995, Monday Night Football - Set the TD record against the Cardinals and watching it with my cousins.
4) 2002 - the 11-yard run to break Walter Payton's all-time record. I watched online and remember the graphic "Emmitt Smith now all-time rushing leader". It was the last time he'd rush for 100 yards in Cowboys gear and he fittingly scored on that drive.

While I hated Jerry Rice as a rival, I respected his intense work ethic. I remember as a kid watching his workout routine of running on hiking trails and carrying bricks in his backpack. He was motivated to be the best and he showed it every Sunday.

Without a doubt, he's not only the greatest wide receiver ever, he's one of the greatest players ever period. To dominate a game from that position is rare but he also played a role in two QB's becoming legends and without question, he was the definition of a tough guy. That's what happens when you attend a D1-AA school and have to work to earn respect.

Best quote about Jerry? "He may run a 4.7 (in the 40 yard dash) but he runs a 4.3 on Sundays" - a tribute to how much blinding speed is overrated if you can't catch a ball and excel at doing the little things to score and win.

It's fitting both of them went in the Hall of Fame at the same time. And congrats to former Vikings lineman John Randle, one of the great trash talkers in the 90's who backed it up with getting sacks.

Now can we get Shannon Sharpe, Cris Carter and Charles Haley in there?

1 comment:

  1. Great recall on Emmitt.
    Jerry Rice is a next level athlete. His work ethic, astounding. Bricks in his backpack! I hate carrying a set of keys when I run.
    Good to see both in the hall.