In less than three weeks, former Cowboys (and Cardinals) running back Emmitt Smith will be memorialized for all posterity in Canton. His first-year-of-eligibility enshrinement was a no-brainer, given that he holds the NFL’s all-time rushing record, with 18,355 yards.
And while LaDainian Tomlinson is the closest active player with a bit less than 6,000 yards to go (which equates to roughly half of his career rushing output to date), Smith believes that the record will some day be “approached.”
Not necessarily broken, but “approached.”
“I do believe it will be approached,” Smith told Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I would be naive to
think that it could be not approached, because, hey, no one actually
thought that Walter Payton’s record could be approached. Here I am, in
2002, ended up breaking that record and extended it out to 18,000-plus
yards. I’m not going to sit here and tell you the record is not going to
be approached or broken, but I do know this: It’s going to take an
awful lot to get there, because I know what it took for me to get there.
It’s not easy.”
Still, we think that Smith’s record is safe. Even with an 18-game season, few modern running backs display the durability that Smith demonstrated. Moreover, more and more teams are using two or more backs (Smith’s Cowboys now use three), which dilutes the opportunities for any one of them to get on the sustained pace necessary to knock off Smith.
So we’ll be shocked if anyone gets within sniffing distance of Smith’s record at any point in the foreseeable future. Though we’re not ready to proclaim the mark an DiMaggio-style achievement that likely never will be surpassed, it’s far closer to the Yankee Clipper’s 56-game hitting streak than any other NFL record currently on the books, with maybe the exception of Brett Favre’s all-time interception record.