At 52, former NFL running back Herschel Walker may say he could still play in the NFL. But 45-year-old Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, says there is no way he will suit up again.
During his keynote at Operations Summit 2014 Thursday in Indianapolis, Smith was asked – begged, actually – if he would play again for the Dallas Cowboys. Though Smith appeared on stage to be in NFL shape, he said he doesn’t even run anymore. Smith said his physical activities are limited to riding his bike and playing golf.
Smith’s comments came a few hours before Walker told USA Today he felt he, physically, could still play running back in the NFL.
“I can play in the NFL today,” Walker said in the USA Today interview. “I couldn’t take every snap. But running backs nowadays don’t play every down. Now they send in the choir section.”
While Walker said he, physically, could still play, Smith told his Operations Summit audience that he could not.
Emotionally, an Emmitt Smith comeback may be impossible, too: Smith told the store of the last time he suited up in Texas Stadium, as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, after winning three Super Bowl rings in 13 seasons with his favorite team growing up, the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith said he sobbed uncontrollably in front of his locker, and told teammates he was in the “wrong locker room.” Though Smith said that was the day he knew it was time to hang it up, he played one more season with the Cardinals.
Smith may also be a little too busy to train for a comeback. As chairman of E Smith Realty Partners, Smith heads up a commercial real estate development firm. He also runs Emmitt Smith Enterprises, which includes a commercial construction firm, a brand marketing company and two charities.
Herschel Walker’s proclamation that he could make a comeback at 52 comes a little more than 30 years after then-47-year-old Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in an Oakland Raiders uniform and said he could still play in the NFL.
Brown’s comments came as Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton was nearing Brown’s all-time NFL rushing record, the one Smith eventually broke in 2002.
Peterson has 10,115 rushing yards through seven seasons, and is one of only seven NFL running backs to rush for 2,000-yards in a season. Smith’s record in 18,355, and he achieved that over a 15-year career.
To bring the story full-circle, Walker, who was Smith’s Cowboys teammate in 1996 and 1997, holds the all-time pro football single season rushing mark: Walker ran for 2,411 yards as a member of the New Jersey Generals of the defunct United States Football League.