Reporting Doug Dunbar
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – During a candid sit down interview, Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith recalled hearing the speech that changed the course of his life.
It was the mid 90s, and Smith was just a third of the way into his 15-year NFL career. He was a 5-time Pro-Bowler, and a 3-time Super Bowl champion.
But still, he said something was missing.
“I was actually looking for answers where I kept asking myself – what am I doing,” Smith said. “If you’re not settled spiritually, things can be a little bit more chaotic than normal.”
Clarity came at an unlikely time: On the way to a concert, a teammate asked Smith to briefly stop at a conference hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes.
“He said let’s just stop by the Potter’s House and I’m like, OK no problem,” Smith said. “We went in, and he was preaching, and I heard a message unlike any other message I’ve heard before. It was one that captivated me, and one that led me to seek more. It was a message that I’d never heard delivered in that method, in that structure, or in that context before.”
The message gave Smith a clear path showing where he needed to take his life, he said. But, even then, he still questioned if he heard the message correctly.
“I started going back to see how consistent the message would be, and his message just got stronger and better for me every time I went,” he said. “It gives me the faith to walk in life unafraid. The ability to know that I am connected to a source that’s much stronger than I am.”
Smith has no doubt that it’s the source that led him to another pivotal moment with Pat, his wife of 11 years.
“Our defining moment in our dating relationship was after a game,” Pat said. “It was after a game, and I just sensed he was very frustrated, and I said lets get on our knees, and lets pray.”
Emmitt and Pat married in April of 2000. Today, they have five children. But, even with money, fame, and faith their life is still not the perfect picture many might assume.
When asked if the couple ever disagrees, Emmitt laughed, adding, “Oh yeah, absolutely.”
The Smiths say a perfect example of using their faith to help guide them was the decision for Emmitt to compete on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. It would take him away from home for weeks.
“We talked about it, we prayed about it,” Pat said. ”We set up parameters that we both felt comfortable about.”
Watch Emmitt talk about his Dancing With the Stars costume:
Now six years removed from the playing field, time has given Emmitt a new perspective on his old job.
“I’ve learned that football sometimes was an outlet,” he said. “It was a way for me to release anger, release frustration.”
His release now comes in the form of a Bible passage recited to him years ago by his grandmother – a verse he now puts into practice in life, and in love.
“Trust in the Lord with your heart and lean not onto your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path,” Emmitt recited.
“It’s not about my way. It’s not about her way. It’s about the way that we both should go. Again, “Lean not onto my own understanding. Allow Him to direct thy path.”
Today, Emmitt Smith is making his mark in the commercial real estate world. He and Pat also oversee Smith Charities for Underserved Children, something they both feel they were called to do.
“Every morning that I wake up, it’s not about me … but truly I was put here for a reason,” Pat said. ”I’m breathing today because there’s more that God wants me to do for Him.”