As the Dallas Cowboys’ Emmitt Smith settles onto his throne as the NFL’s all-time rushing King, arguments persist as to who is the best running back of all-time. If you don’t like Smith, then there’s former rushing champ Walter Payton, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders and even Marshall Faulk to choose from.
Though they trail Smith in yards, all are worthy candidates.
What is not debatable is that Smith is the best conditioned and most durable back ever. Others have been bigger, faster and feature resumes with more jaw-dropping highlights. But the 5-foot-9, 212-pound Smith, who was once told he was too small and too slow to survive in the NFL, has outlasted and outrun them all.
Because of the fluke nature of some injuries, especially on artificial turf, and the rigors of playing the position, blessed might be the only way to describe Smith’s amazingly healthy career. According to the NFL Players Association, the average career for an NFL running back is 2.57 years. Smith has played in 192 regular-season games in 13 years. He has missed seven games since his rookie year in 1990 and just four because of injury.
— Clarence E. Hill Jr, Fort Worth Star-Telegram “Talent was obvious, but Smith succeeded because of durability.”