A few days ago there was a post that featured 4 of the best runners in my lifetime and it said that if you had to choose any one of them to cut in their prime who would it be? The choices were Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and Bo Jackson. Immediately without thought when I saw it I let Emmitt go. As I stared at the picture more and more, I started to ask myself why? Why Emmitt?
Everyone attributes Emmitt’s success to his offensive line. Upon further review, I decided that maybe before making a rushed decision based on what I remember, maybe I should go watch a little film. I can honestly say that I was in middle and high school when Bo was relevant and I was in elementary school when Walter Payton was relevant. Luckily I was in high school and college when Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders were destroying rushing records in the NFL.
First tape I put in was Walter Payton. The man lived up to the name sweetness as he punished defenders and then when they started bracing for his power, he would hit them with moves so sweet, you could get type 1 diabetes if you watch them too long. It was safe to say that Walter Payton was safe on my list.
The second tape I put in was Bo Jackson. Seems like Bo may have played a lot of football, but the reality of it was he didn’t really play that much (averaging 10 – 11 games a year for 4 years) and honestly most of his game film was pretty average. He reminded us of his greatness a few games out of the year as the 225 lb big back would run through and past the opposition. It was safe to say that Bo wasn’t the Tecmo Bowl Bo that I remembered. In fact he didn’t have any wiggle or moves that made him unique. He was a power back with speed. Even on the play he got injured on, if he just stutter steps or dips and rips, he doesn’t get hurt. Bo wasn’t safe on the list, but he proved he belonged on the list.
The next tape I put in was Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders is and always will be the G.O.A.T. to me. I’ve never seen a man stop and start on a dime as well as he did. Some would argue that Gayle Sayers was better. I can’t speak on that because I didn’t see Gayle play but I know that every game I ever saw Barry play my mouth hung open in amazement at what I saw. Barry was safe and sound on the list.
The last tape I put in was Emmitt Smith. If you noticed I put them in order based on their initial season in the NFL. When Emmitt Smith reached the Cowboys they were horrible. He wasn’t though. I was expecting to see a guy who was running 8 – 10 yards before he got touched and that wasn’t the case. I watched a guy make people miss. Lots of good defensive players missed and missed badly. I started watching his footwork and if you know anything about me you know how important proper footwork is. The best footwork I’ve ever seen in the NFL is Barry Sanders, Frank Gore and Curtis Martin. Emmitt Smith now has to be added to that list.
After further review I decided that Bo Jackson as great as he was for four seasons didn’t belong on the list. I know I am probably in the minority and that’s okay. I’m comfortable with my decision. The real issue I have is why does Emmitt Smith get disrespected when discussing the great runners of all time. He is the leading rusher and he did it at a high level up until age 35 when he ran for over 900 yards for the Arizona Cardinals. Maybe it’s because he made it look easy. Maybe it’s because he didn’t show you the runaway speed. Needless to say he delivered when he had too. The stage was never too big for him and he made it a point to be the focal point when on the stage.