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LaDainian Tomlinson Retires; Emmitt Smith Reigns

By Richie Whitt, CBSDFW.COM
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At the Dallas Cowboys’ 20th Anniversary of their 1992 Super Bowl team last month, a familiar face walked in and proclaimed what we all knew.

“I gotta be honest,” said Detroit Lions’ Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, “Emmitt is the best of all time. He did it better and longer than anyone else. The end.”

By virtue of his durability, versatility, longevity and productivity, Smith is always in the conversation among the NFL’s greatest all-time running backs. But, as for sheer statistics, he’s got a record that these days looks as unbreakable as Nolan Ryan’s strikeout mark.

In 15 seasons Smith ran for a record 18,355 yards. Today LaDanian Tomlinson retires with a Hall of Fame resume, and a healthy 4,671 behind Smith.

We can argue who the greatest was. We can also debate who know owns the NFL’s “LT,” – Tomlinson or Lawrence Taylor. But there’s no denying Smith will remain the NFL’s All-time Leading Rusher for … who knows?

We’ll remember Tomlinson as a high-schooler from Waco who starred at TCU and then set the single-season record for NFL touchdowns with 31 in 2006. He was the best player in the game. He was the darting No. 21 behind the dark visor. He produced more seasons (8) of 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns than anyone to ever play in the NFL. He’s headed to Canton in 2018.

But Tomlinson, like all other backs before and likely after him, couldn’t sniff Smith’s record.

Walter Payton is 1,629 yards behind Emmitt. Sanders 3,086. Curtis Martin 4,245. Then comes Tomlinson, 5th all-time. After LT retires, the next closest active running back to Smith will be Chiefs’ Thomas Jones. He trails by 7,804 yards. He is 33 years old.

With the specialization of running backs – short-yardage backs, third-down backs, etc. – Emmitt’s 18,355 is so out there it feels utterly unattainable, much like Ryan’s 3,000-plus strikeouts lead over closest active pursuers Jamie Moyer and Andy Pettitte,

The Rams’ Steven Jackson is in the best shape to make a run at Emmitt. But with only 9,093 yards at age 28, he isn’t even halfway there. A trio of 26-year-olds are off to good NFL starts, but Maurice Jones-Drew (6,854), Adrian Peterson (6,752) and Chris Johnson (5,645) could average 1,150 yards for the next 10 seasons and still not catch Smith.

It’s time to look at LaDanian Tomlinson’s career as Canton.

But it’s also time to view Emmitt Smith’s record as unbreakable.

(Copyright 2012 CBSDFW.COM, CBS Local a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved)

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