Emmitt Smith: Zeke “Exceeded My Expectations”

by | Jan 5, 2017 | Articles, The League, The Team

Ron Jenkins via AP

Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time rushing champion, reflects on the rookie season of Ezekiel Elliott and likes what he sees.

“I think he met and exceeded my expectations,” says Emmitt. “I think he’s handling everything with professionalism. He understands the game and he’s evolved. He’s got the mindset of being patient while also accelerating and taking advantage of what the defense gives him. He’s putting all those things to work. He’s a great blocker. He’s got great hands.

“He’s putting it all together and the exciting thing is there’s still room for growth for him. I think he’s done a heck of a job so far, and, most importantly, he’s doing it the right way.”

Zeke zoomed past Smith and other Cowboys running backs when it comes to several NFL and team rookie rushing records.

In 2016, Zeke led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards, becoming only the fifth NFL rookie since 1970 to lead the league in rushing yards, and the first since Edgerrin James (1,553 in 1999, Colts).

Zeke’s 1,613 rushing yards total is not only a Cowboys’ rookie record, it’s the third-highest single season total by a rookie in NFL history trailing only Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1,808 in 1983, Rams) and George Rogers (1,674 in 1981, Saints).  The fourth-highest rookie total in NFL history is held by current Cowboys running back Alfred Morris who gained 1,613 in his rookie year with the Redskins in 2012.

Zeke totaled 1,994 scrimmage yards (1,631 rushing, 363 receiving) which is the third highest total by an NFL rookie trailing only Dickerson (2,212 in 1983, Rams) and James (2,139 in 1999, Colts).

Zeke had 5 games with at least 125 rushing yards, second most ever by an NFL rookie (Dickerson, 7 in ’83).

Zeke’s rookie rushing totals exceeded a couple of Cowboys running backs who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Tony Dorsett & Emmitt Smith.

And finally, Zeke’s 16 touchdowns in 2016 (15 rushing, 1 receiving) is a new Cowboys’ single season rookie record, surpassing Herschel Walker’s 14 TDs in 1986 (12 rushing, 2 receiving).

Cowboys Single Season Rushing Yards/Rookie:

1. Ezekiel Elliott, 2016: 1,631 yards, 322 carries, 5.1 avg, 15 rushing TDs

2. Tony Dorsett, 1977: 1,007 yards, 208 carries, 4.8 avg, 12 rushing TDs

3. Calvin Hill, 1969: 942 yards, 204 carries, 4.6 avg, 8 rushing TDs

4. Emmitt Smith, 1990: 937 yards, 241 carries, 3.9 avg, 11 rushing TDs

5. DeMarco Murray, 2011: 897 yards, 164 carries, 5.4 avg, 2 rushing TDs

Cowboys’ Single Season Rushing Yards:

1. DeMarco Murray, 2014: 1,845

2. Emmitt Smith, 1995: 1,773

3. Emmitt Smith, 1992: 1,713

4. Tony Dorsett, 1981: 1,646

5. Ezekiel Elliott, 2016: 1,631