Emmitt Smith explains why he lets his son play football


It has become fashionable in recent years to ask current and former players whether they will let their sons play football. It has become particularly trendy for some with an anti-football agenda to trumpet a decision by a current or former player to not let his actual or hypothetical kids play football (either before a certain age or at all).

So for those of us who like the sport and don’t want to see it go away, it’s fair to balance things out by pointing out comments from current or former players who have decided to let their children play. Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith recently gave an extended explanation of his position on the matter in comments to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Why would I steal his passion from him?” Smith said. “I never made him play football. He had many choices, options. I love watching him play basketball. Football, I get nervous just like any other parent. And I’m concerned for him just like any other parent. But his goals are his goals, and my job is to help him reach it and protect him when he needs protection. And so to take another kid’s passion from them is just not right. I don’t think it’s right. It’s like me taking your passion from you, telling you, ‘You cannot do this.’ When you want to do it. Especially if it’s right. It’s good for him.”

Asked by a reporter whether he simply doesn’t share the same health concerns that other parents have for kids playing football, Smith fired back quickly.

“Yeah, I share health concerns,” Smith said. “Did I not just answer that? I do. As a parent, I do. I know how physical the sport is. And I know what’s required. I think the uniqueness about it is as a parent for me I see it differently. Because some parents have to rely on others to give them advice. I’ve experienced it. I can see. I know how to train. I know how to protect my body. I know how to keep it healthy. And so I can impart that kind of wisdom upon my son, whereas others may have to look to some doctor that may have a different agenda or some coach that may have a different agenda. I can say, ‘No. That doesn’t even sound right. Here’s what we gonna do.’ That’s what I have the ability to do, because of my life experiences through my sport. And I do have access to some of the best doctors. Some people will have to rely on some other doctors. So that helps, that does help.”

Playing football is an individualized decision that each person needs to make. For kids under 18, it’s a decision in which the parents should be involved, directly. And it’s important for kids and parents to get as much information as they can about the risks, and to make a reasoned decision about whether football will be a part of their lives.

It’s also important for parents to determine whether safe, responsible techniques are being taught by the coaches who are entrusted with their children’s health and safety. If parents have concerns, they need to find a way to articulate them — or they need to be willing to pull their kids off the field.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer as to whether a kid under the age of 18 will be allowed to play football, even though those who trumpet the decisions of parents to not let kids play football often is postured, expressly or implicitly, as the only answer.

24 responses to “Emmitt Smith explains why he lets his son play football

  1. Hahahhaa you had me at “Emmitt Smith explains” thank God he could play football because the guy has an IQ of salad dressing. Wish I could find the YouTube clip of him making up words when he worked for espn.

  2. God bless him.
    I love watching football and want all the sons of football fans to play, so I have something to watch.

    Me personally, I won’t let my son play football. Let other kids suffer brain damage, not mine.

  3. Someone once told me “The wrists are worth the rewards” and MY wrists feel great after a long NFL careers so why not let MY kids play?!?”

  4. Kids are not getting hit hard enough to have long term effects, by the time they reach college its their choice. Everyone knows hitting your head over and over again could have lasting effects………but its a DECISION football players make. If you dont want to risk it, then make 30K/yr being a garbageman. Look at auto mechanics, bad knees, bad backs, arthritis from their line of work- and they make 40K/yr. Id be more than happy to risk it to make millions in the NFL. Its not the leagues job to baby everyone who plays the sport- they CHOSE to play it, period. Should smokers sue tobacco companies when they get lung cancer? no. they chose to smoke- and they certainly dont have millions of dollars to handle doctor bills.

  5. Everything kills you in the end. Have fun and follow your dreams playing a game you want to play.
    I mean If you believe the all the CTE HYPE these days than there’s no way emmitt should even be able to speak these days. he should be sitting in a dark room mumbling to himself.

  6. The way to handle this is with guidance and education. Banning your kid from playing football is a bad decision. It reminds me of the worthless anti-drug programs like “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E. that I grew up with in the 80s and 90s. Telling a kid, no, no, no, no, you can’t do that, is not productive. Educating a kid on the truth, and the potential consequences of their decisions is treating the kid with respect and actually helping them learn how to make life decisions. Good for Emmit. This is the best interview on the subject I’ve read to date.

  7. my son plays flag leagues, just to get him acclimated to the game but he wont play tackle until like 8th grade or so. hes a basketball guy anyway, but he does say he wants to play tackle.

  8. I am proud of Emmitt. He has such a true statement. Thank you for finally having a pro-football story when it comes to kids playing.

    Too many Doctors and Coaches have their own agenda and not what is best for the kid. We want society to protect the kid when it is the parent’s responsibility to take in the information and do what is best for the child.

    Till this is fully realized we can’t just stop having kids play. I think that the lower levels need to have more training and monitoring with the way kids are taught to prevent things. We still have coaches that don’t care for the kids just keep running more out there. But that is also on school administrations to monitor and make sure that coaches don’t get out of control. It is not just the NFL that it needs to happen in.

    I love football, but poor coaching is killing the sport. Fix the coaching which is starting to happen. The lawsuit did help with that, but so does more people getting involved and not just dropping their kids off for babysitting times.

  9. Emmitt Smith was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. He also happens to be as smart as a box of pet rocks. Nothing he says should be taken seriously.

  10. I hate the Cowboys, but the media should get a grip, it’s his boy… Who the he!! are they to ask him about raising his child? ..

  11. Despite any thoughts I have over him in the GOAT RB argument (nope), when I hear him speak or read what he says I gain more respect for Emmit.

  12. I hate the Cowboys but man this guy is nothing but Class. I’ve always respected him, and I may not let my kid play football, but what a great answer.

    Good for him!

  13. Why does Emmitt Smith have to explain to anyone why he let’s his son play football? That’s between him and his son. Last time I looked this is still America.

  14. yes kids can get life altering injuries playing contact football and it happens all too often

    it’s crazy logic saying “something kills you someday’… it’s true of course, but are kids really capable of understanding a decision to want to take a significant risk of giving up 10, 20, or 30 years of their life or living with debilitating brain or orthopedic daily for the rest of their lives? definitely not, they need guidance

    everyone is really gung ho with their decisions until it’s their own children

  15. All kids should play little league football if they want. I am 57 and have played and been around my kids and other kids who have played and do not know of any long lasting problems with anybody. There is risk in everything fun.

  16. izzysydbas says:
    Apr 13, 2016 10:17 AM
    Why does Emmitt Smith have to explain to anyone why he let’s his son play football? That’s between him and his son. Last time I looked this is still America.


    Where have you been the past several years while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become so huge? Didn’t you know that it’s everyone’s business to know everything about everyone. And everyone feels that their opinion matters so they have to post it everywhere. And people love to watch other people fail, etc. It’s the new America, get used to it.

  17. You have literally as likely of a chance of developing CTE from playing in the band as you do from High School football. You have a higher chance of dying in a car wreck every day, yet we still drive cars.

    For youth-high school aged the risk is minimal. As a high school coach I know that proper coaching and technique can prevent most of these serious head/brain injuries. My friend of many years who coaches soccer as well as football sees roughly twice as many concussions each season on the soccer field than on football… why is their sport under the same scrutiny?

    People are overly paranoid because of some of these studies. These studies done on NFL and Collegiate level players. What these ignorant soccer moms are failing to understand is at those levels the collisions are harder, the seasons are longer. Everything is more intense. Getting hit by Ray Lewis type linebackers for a 5-10 year NFL career is a much different than little Johnny getting tackled by Bobby from across town for 4 years of high school.

    The risks of youth and high school football are microscopic compared to the college and professional level risks. I feel it as a coach that there is a serious culture war being waged against football. I hate to see the sport I love so much be attacked and under siege by half truths and skewed data. Football teaches teamwork, fighting through adversity, and mental toughness like no other sport. It builds character and toughness which this generation coming up is seriously lacking.

    I would give my children the choice of playing football or not. However I would never want my sons playing soccer and being taught to flop around and cry when things get tough… I’d worry more about that than serious brain trauma.

  18. He was smart enough to become a hall-of-fame athlete. Smart enough to carry himself with class, on and off the field his whole career. And smart enough to not end up broke or shot to death on some street corner because he wanted to ‘keep it real’. Not everyone is cut out for TV or radio. I’m sure most of the smart-asses who comment on message boards would sound like imbeciles with bright studio lights, a mic and millions of people watching. If anything, his opinion is more valid than a bunch of soccer moms or politicians when it comes to football. He played at the highest level at one of the most punishing positions. When the average RB today can’t string together three good years without falling off the map, it just makes you appreciate what Emmitt, and other RBs of his era were able to do.

  19. There are risks to football. There are also risk to skiing, surfing, rock climbing, other recreations. Heck even in soccer you can suffer head trauma heading a ball. Banning high school football would intensify the obesity problem in this country even more.

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