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There was nothing that Emmitt Smith could not do of the field as the star running back of the Dallas Cowboys. Nearly two decades after leaving the organization, however, he has revealed a huge regret over something that he failed to do off the field as a Cowboy.

Emmitt Smith completed the Dallas Cowboys’ ‘triplets’

Winning three Super Bowls in four years is child’s play when you draft as shrewdly as Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones did. With receiver Michael Irvin already aboard as a 1988 selection, the masterminds of the Dallas Cowboys drafted quarterback Troy Aikman in 1989 and running back Emmitt Smith in 1990.

The so-called triplets played together for 10 seasons. The run of success included six straight 10-win seasons, eight playoff appearances in nine years, and the three Super Bowl triumphs.

Irvin played his entire 12-year career with the Cowboys, making 750 catches for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns during the regular season. There were an additional 87 receptions and eight touchdowns in the postseason.

Aikman’s career also spanned 12 years. After his winless rookie year as a starter, the Cowboys went 94-60 with him under center. Aikman threw for 165 touchdowns in the regular season and another 23 in the playoffs.

Smith spent 13 of his 15 pro seasons in Dallas. He ran for 17,162 yards and 153 touchdowns as a Cowboy. In the playoffs, Smith rolled up 1,586 yards and 19 TDs in just 17 games.

Michael Irvin ran into trouble in 1996

Of the Dallas Cowboys’ big three of Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith, two steered relatively clear of controversy and legal problems. That’s not an easy achievement in a region in which life seemingly revolves around football and the players are under constant scrutiny.

Irvin, however, did run into problems along the way. The most notable incident was his 1996 arrest on a cocaine possession charge following a police raid on a hotel room. He was charged with second-degree felony cocaine possession, a count carrying a punishment of anywhere from probation to 20 years in prison.

The case went to trial in July 1996, shortly before the Cowboys were due to show up for the start of training camp. After several days of jury selection and testimony, Irvin agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. Irvin, 30 at the time, entered a plea of no contest to the drug charge in exchange for four years of probation and a $10,000 fine. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue suspended Irvin for the first five games of the season.

Emmitt Smith regrets not showing his support

Retired Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith spoke to a reporter this week on the recent social justice issues highlighted in protests across the country. Smith said he would be one of the players kneeling for the national anthem this fall if he were still active. Smith pointed to the activism by current star athletes and spoke about the hesitance he would have had about participating in the 1990s.

When Michael Irvin was on trial for cocaine possession in Dallas in 1996, quarterback Troy Aikman was the only teammate to show up during the trial to lend support to the receiver. Smith says now that he regrets not appearing in court to show his own support.

“I think back when Mike got into his situation and we were told not to go down to the courthouse and everything else and I wanted to be down there so bad. Years later I still look back and reflect on it. … I regret it every day that I think about it because I love (Irvin) to death. And that’s my teammate and that’s my brother he should have had the support that he needed.”

Emmitt Smith

Smith told the Star-Telegram he is pleased to see players speaking up for causes now without fear of ramifications, saying “these young players don’t care” about appearances.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.


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