Greatest Player: Emmitt Smith
The NFL’s all-time leading rusher certainly wasn’t the flashiest. Emmitt Smith didn’t overwhelm defenses with speed, size, or power — his best attribute was his excellent vision. Although he didn’t possess the same talent as some of the other backs on this list, Smith made up for any physical shortcomings with his durability and toughness.
Smith seemed to get stronger as the game went on, often punishing tired defenses in the fourth quarter. Smith rarely missed time due to injury. As a result of his durability, he finished his career with more rushing yards (18,355) and touchdowns (164) than any running back in NFL history.
Runner Up: Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach’s greatest failing was coming up short in Super Bowls X and XIII against Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers, but the original “Captain Comeback” won two Super Bowls (VI and XII) anyway. Staubach was the model for the cool, calm and clean efficiency that was a hallmark of the Dallas Cowboys’ incredible success during the 1970’s.
When he won Super Bowl VI versus the Miami Dolphins, Staubach became the first player to win college football’s Heisman Trophy as well as a Super Bowl MVP award, the feat since matched by three other players. Give Staubach credit for bravery, he could have served his Naval requirements in safe America, but volunteered to serve a year overseas in the death-filled nightmare also known as the Vietnam War.
Challenger: Ezekiel Elliott
It’s not exactly a secret that Ezekiel Elliott has a LONG way to go, before he should even be mentioned in the same sentence as Emmitt Smith, or come close to matching the 18,335 career rushing yards that Smith accumulated.
However, Elliott has already racked up more than 5,400 yards rushing in his first four seasons, averaging over 96 yards rushing per game. At that rate, it would take him 13 additional seasons to surpass the total put up by Smith; in today’s NFL landscape, that seems very unlikely. But, never say never, especially with as loyal as owner Jerry Jones is to his players.