The Peterson Principle 8/10/10

Emmitt Smith's Hall of Fame speech was as awe inspiring as one of his touchdown runs

The speeches are almost as emotional as the games. If you had any doubt about the type of impact the game of football has on an individual it was all put to rest Saturday night in Canton, Ohio.

The Hall of Fame speeches delivered by the inductees were inspirational, motivational and heart warming all at the same time. Only in football will a speech leave you wondering whether to cheer, cry or stand up and yell ‘Amen!’

Emmitt Smith brought out all of those emotions when he delivered a passion filled acceptance speech in which he broke down several times. Tears streamed down his face as he thanked God, his family, coaches and teammates.

I can’t ever remember this ever happening at the basketball or baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies. Football is a different animal. Its emotion is without equal among other sports.

Smith not only thanked God but said that he felt his football career was ordained by God. He thanked his family and asked his parents, wife, kids and all of his family members to stand. It was nice touch and Smith made it very special in the way he recognized them. A lot of guys mention their families. It’s almost expected. But it was the way he paid tribute to his teammates that separated football and Smith from the rest.

Smith spent 13 years with the Dallas Cowboys and won three Super Bowls during that time. He is the NFL’s all time leading rusher having amassed over 18,000 yards and 164 touchdowns. Smith’s individual accomplishments and statistics are unparalleled. Yet he didn’t take any of the credit.

He asked quarterback Troy Aikman and receiver Michael Irvin, who along with Smith represented “the triplets” in Dallas, to stand. He then lauded them for their support and praised them for their fierce competitiveness on the field. He told them he loved them like brothers and that he would not be where he was without them.

He then asked Daryl “Moose” Johnston to stand. Johnston played fullback for the Cowboys and was Smith’s lead blocker. “You mean the world to me, not just because we shared the same backfield but because you sacrificed so much for me,” Smith said while tearing up.

He went on to say that Johnston took care of him as though he was taking care of a little brother. “Without you today would not have been possible. I love you from the bottom of my heart,” Smith concluded.

Wow! Only in football! Only in football would bonds like that be formed. Only in football would a Hall of Fame player break down and tell a former player that he loved him like a brother because of the sacrifices he made.

Smith, arguably the greatest football player ever, gave everybody else the credit for his success. Michael Jordan, who was arguably the greatest basketball player ever, talked only about himself during his speech and even talked about coming back one day. Instead of thanking former coaches and teammates he disparaged former adversaries and opponents. He finished thanking his family by saying “I wouldn’t want to be you guys.”

The difference is clear between Jordan and Smith but it also speaks to the difference between football and other sports. Rarely are speeches more powerful than in football.

Although Smith was the valedictorian of the class of 2010, the other inductees knocked it out of the park as well. Floyd Little told of his inspiration by a son who was shot on campus and lost a leg while Dick LeBeau, a 73 year old coach, talked about age being just a number.

While Jordan concluded his diatribe by hinting at coming back to the NBA at 50, Smith finished up by thanking all of the offensive lineman that he ran behind for Dallas. He then talked about how his father was unable to continue a promising football career because he chose to take care of his sick mother.

The story was almost as compelling as the action on the field. Football has a way of doing that.

That’s my principle.

Tim can be reached at

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