Commentary

Cowboys' run to immortality complete

Smith joins Dorsett in Hall and cements Dallas' top standing among rushing tandems

Updated: February 7, 2010, 8:19 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Through the tears, hugs, handshakes and smiles from Saturday's busy day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection show, Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett could go down as the two greatest running backs to play for the same team in NFL history.

Smith, who was selected into the Hall on Saturday, combined with Dorsett to rush for 29,198 yards for the Cowboys. No other pair of running backs in any other team's history has even reached 23,000 yards.

Think about that. That's more than Walter Payton and Neal Anderson. More than Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson. More than Barry Sanders and Billy Sims.

Hey, that's more than Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly.

The closest pair of backs to Smith and Dorsett is Payton and Anderson with 22,892 yards.

"I never took it from that vantage point," Dorsett said. "When you look at it from that perspective, there's a lot of yards amongst the two. I don't think there's ever been any two men in any franchise's history that compare to that amount of yards."

Same goes for their touchdown total. Dorsett and Smith combined for 225 rushing touchdowns, most in league history for a duo with one team. The closest pair is LaDainian Tomlinson and Chuck Muncie with 181 touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers.

What makes Dorsett and Smith so special is that they're different.

Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys executive who drafted Dorsett and later scouted Smith, compared the two.

"Emmitt is more of an inside runner," Brandt said. "A stronger-legged runner is what he is. I think Dorsett is a runner who relied on quickness and running ability. You look at the runs Tony made. He made a run against St. Louis, a 2-yard run, and it is one of the great runs of all time, and you look at Emmitt and he moves the chains. They run that lead draw [play] for 11,000 yards, that's what they did."

It adds to the value of how special the Cowboys were when they had a strong running game. It led to championships. Smith has three rings and Dorsett one.

Smith was never fast, but he was a physical back who could make defenders miss or could bowl them over. All week, people discussed how he played in pain during games, and Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones spoke of how Smith would practice with a severe case of the flu as if it was nothing. His toughness was his biggest asset.

"I didn't have the 4.3 or 4.2 blazing speed," Smith said. "But I had enough speed to get from Point A to Point B and do my job effectively."

Dorsett was fast. You remember that 99-yard touchdown Dorsett had that Monday night at Minnesota in 1983, the longest in league history. You also remember the moves Dorsett threw on a defender that shook him up.

"Any time Tony touched the ball, it could be six," former teammate Ed "Too Tall" Jones said. "One of the fastest and knowledgeable backs I've ever seen in terms of using his blockers."

And now Smith and Dorsett are together in the Hall. Dorsett is still revered back home in Dallas. All week long, as he walked around the media center and parts of the city, he was treated like a popular singer going on tour.

Smith got that treatment too. He did all the network shows when he arrived here early in the week and was hounded for autographs and interviews.

He started his Saturday at the home of radio personality Tom Joyner, eating chicken and waffles and playing cards. Smith said he was rather calm for most of the day, and his wife, Pat, agreed, but she noticed her husband get a little emotional when he heard his name getting called.

"I could see the look on the face," Pat Smith said. "When they called his name, that changed everything."

Why wouldn't it, especially when you're joining Dorsett in the Hall of Fame?

"It's like coming through a cloud or walking through fog and then the doors are opening up, and everyone is there sitting, waiting and welcoming the young players," Smith said. "That's a wonderful feeling because [the Hall of Fame] level is a great group of men that has done so many great things at this level, and they know what it's like. To be able to stand alongside Tony and many other great Cowboys that are there, it's a great feeling."

Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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