“Move Over Sweetness, Make a Place for Emmitt!”
October 27th is the anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in the history of the Cowboys: Emmitt Smith breaking Walter Payton’s career rushing record.
Smith became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher in a game at Texas Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks on October 27, 2002. In the 4th quarter with 9:28 remaining on the clock, the Cowboys had the ball 2nd and 7 at their own 30 yard line. Emmitt took a handoff and burst up the middle with an 11-yard gain for the record-breaking run.
Here’s the call from Cowboys Radio play-by-play voice Brad Sham: “I-formation, two receivers right. Second-and-seven from the Dallas 30. Hutchinson handoff, Smith at left guard, 35, 40 yard-line! Right on the mark! That should do it! Move over, Sweetness! Make a place for Emmitt!”
With that carry, Emmitt moved past Payton (nicknamed “Sweetness”), the former Chicago Bear, and Payton’s previous record of 16,726 career rushing yards which he set during his final season in 1987 .
By the end of the game on October 27th versus the Seahawks, Emmitt had 16,743 yards. At the end of the 2002 season, his last as a Dallas Cowboy, he extended the record to 17,162 career rushing yards.
Here’s a look back at the record-setting event and some fun facts about Emmett’s big night:
– The starting offensive line that blocked for Emmitt that night was: LT Flozell Adams, LG Jeremy McKinney, C Andre Gurode, RG Solomon Page, and RT Javier Collins.
– Do you remember which Cowboys’ quarterback started that game and handed the ball to Emmitt on the record breaking run? Give yourself a pat on the back if you remembered it was Chad Hutchinson!
– The play call in the huddle by Hutchinson was “15 lead”.
– The Seahawks defender credited with making the tackle on Emmitt’s record-breaking run was cornerback Ken Lucas.
– The fullback who, along with the offensive line, helped clear the path on Emmitt’s run was Robert Thomas.
– Immediately following the record-setting play, officials stopped the game so that Emmitt could be properly recognized by the crowd as well as teammates and family members. Emmitt came to the sideline and kissed his mother, Mary. “When I saw my mom’s face, that was it,” Emmitt later remarked. Emmitt also kissed his wife, Pat, and their three children. Former teammate Daryl Johnston, who had retired two years earlier, was also on the sideline to congratulate Emmitt.
– Daryl Johnston said this after Emmitt broke the record: “I speak for all the guys who have blocked for Emmitt Smith. We did it because of what kind of person he was, not just what kind of football player he was. You talk about great players making everyone around them better. That couldn’t be more true of anybody than Emmitt Smith.”
– Emmitt carried the ball six times in the 4th quarter drive which included his record-breaking run on the second play of the drive. The final play of the drive was a 1-yard touchdown run by Emmitt. Emmitt ran the ball on six of the plays of the scoring drive, including the first three. The only non-Emmitt plays during the drive included Chad Hutchinson completions to WR Joey Galloway and TE Tony McGee. Billy Cundiff kicked the extra point.
– Emmitt was the leading rusher in the game with 24 carries for 109 yards and 1 touchdown. He also caught one pass for 3 receiving yards.
– The Seahawks’ starting running back that day was Shaun Alexander who scored two rushing touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 17-14 win.
– A sellout crowd of 63,854 fans were in attendance at Texas Stadium.
– Following the game, the Cowboys held a postgame ceremony on the field so the team could honor Emmitt’s accomplishment as well as allow Emmitt to address the fans. Walter Payton’s family was there to congratulate Emmitt. “This is as great of a moment for me and my family as it is for you,” Eddie Payton, Walter’s brother, told Emmitt.
– Emmitt told the crowd during the postgame ceremony: “The Lord has blessed me with talent, instilled me with the drive and determination to be successful, and to want to play the game with love and passion. I feel love and passion for you guys as well.”
– The Cowboys had a banner prepared for the historic moment. It hung from the Texas Stadium rafters from that night forward for the remainder of games played in the iconic venue.
– With so many media at Texas Stadium to cover the historic event, the Cowboys erected a tent in the parking lot for Emmitt’s postgame press conference to accommodate for the overflow of reporters.
– When Emmitt was selected by the Cowboys in the 1st round of the 1990 NFL Draft, some critics thought he was possibly too slow to have a long, successful NFL career. But Emmitt never doubted himself. Here’s what teammate Michael Irvin recalled on Emmitt’s record-setting night: “Thirteen years ago a rookie walked into my room. He was my roommate. We talked about the things we wanted to accomplish on the football field. The first thing he said to me, and we were not a good team at the time, was he wanted to win Super Bowls for you guys, and he did that. He said he wanted to win rushing titles, and he did that. He said he wanted to win MVPs, and he did that. His last goal, which I thought was a fantasy, was to become the all-time leading rusher in the NFL. And today, he did that.”
– THE POSTLUDE: following 13 seasons in Dallas, Emmitt played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. During his 15 year NFL career, Emmitt amassed 18,355 rushing yards, still the most in NFL history (and Walter Payton is still 2nd; Barry Sanders is 3rd). Emmitt also holds the NFL record for career rushing touchdowns (164). His total of rushing, receiving and fumble return yards is 21,564 which makes his one of only four players in league history to eclipse the 21,000 combined yards mark (along with WR Jerry Rice, RB/KR/PR Brian Mitchell, and RB Walter Payton). Emmitt’s 175 total touchdowns (including receiving TDs) is second in league history to Jerry Rice (208).