Released 6 August 2010
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Smith’s quest to break the NFL all-time rushing record started with a
touchdown run from scrimmage on the very first play of his very first game in
organized football back in 1977. As quarterback for The Salvation Army
Mini-Mites in Pensacola, Florida, 8-year-old Emmitt took the snap and ran
straight up the middle to score against Ensley Park, another team in the
6-to-8-year-old age division.
Coach Steve Vick knew he had something special on his
where the guy hiked the ball he could catch it. And that’s really why he
the quarterback was because he had such great hands.” says Vick.
first day … at practice, we knew he was going to be
The 70-yard run was one of many
touchdown carries for the future Dallas Cowboy and Arizona Cardinal that
season, making him the star player of the Army team. But his notability went
beyond his coaches and teammates. Even at eight-years-old, the name Emmitt Smith
began gaining public recognition, at least around Escambia County, Florida.
his first year of
Mini-Mite football he was the talk of
the league,” Vick says. “You couldn’t go anywhere without
them talking about,
‘Have you seen the boy from The Salvation Army run the ball?’
Had it not been for The Salvation Army,
many kids like Emmitt would not have been able to play in an organized youth
sports league. To level the playing field for needy youngsters, the Army paid
all league fees and provided the uniforms and equipment – sometimes even
– as well as transportation, charging not a dime for participation.
children who lived
nearby, Emmitt came to the
community center everyday after school. The Army provided a safe place for kids
to gather, make friends and participate in activities they couldn’t
“There always was a lesson that you
could learn at The Salvation Army,” Emmitt says. “One thing about
Army, when they received kids they received them as their own. … [The
center] was there not necessarily just for recreational [activities] but for
learning-skills and all those things as well.”
Vick respects Emmitt Smith for many
winning three Super Bowl rings, for earning a college degree, for breaking the
NFL’s all-time rushing record. But more noteworthy to Vick is the fact
one-time 8-year-old protégé has remained true to himself and to
the values he
was taught as a child.
“I think that
important than breaking the all-time leading rushing record is the fact that
he's still a good person,” Vick says. “When I see him on TV and
when I hear him
talk I can still see that little eight-year-old kid with that smile on his face
and that look in his eyes. He's not changed a whole lot. He’s still Emmitt
Smith. To me that’s impressive.”