Emmitt Smith holds the all-time NFL record for touches, with 4,924 — and many more in the playoffs, not to mention practices and the preseason, plus all the times he picked up a blitz, and the thousands of times he was tackled in college, high school and youth football. So yes, Smith is worried that all those collisions will take a toll.
“Why wouldn’t I worry,” Smith said in a conversation with Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry. I pray about it.”
Smith hesitates to link Junior Seau’s suicide to trauma suffered on the football field, however, and he believes we need to consider both the physical toll that playing football can have on the body and the psychological toll that retirement can have on men who have devoted their lives to football and suddenly don’t have that reason to get up every morning.
“It’s only so much golf you can you play,” Smith said. “Only so many vacations you can take. Plus you are retiring at 35, for me. For some others it may be sooner. You have to find something else to motivate you to inspire you to get up every day to find a sense o self worth. At the end of the day it’s about personal choice and it’s about finding your way through life. That’s not an easy thing to do for people who have been to the top so to speak in one area and then find themselves in a life in valley afterwards.”
That’s not easy even for the players lucky enough to retire with all their physical and mental faculties intact.