Emmitt Smith still takes his wife dancing, but these days there’s a bit of pain to work through.
The former running back and Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) champ has teamed up with a pharmaceutical company to help other folks tackle gout, another form of arthritis.
I talk with the football legend about the show, proposed running back rules and why being a running back isn’t exactly a lost art these days.
Kelley Carter (KC): You’re a DWTS champ. What’s the best advice you can give the athletes?
Emmitt Smith (ES): I would just say relax, have fun and just let it all hang out. You have nothing else to lose. You get a chance to go out there and dance in front of America and get people excited about this show.
KC: Is it an advantage having that athletic background ?
ES: Trust me, there are some limitations to having this athletic background! At the end of the day…I want to speak for my own body — it’s not lean enough or flexible enough. But from the standpoint of having a work ethic that’s matched by your fellow dance partner, it’s something that we do bring to the table. (We have) that mentality of focusing in for a long period of time, that determination to practice long hours if necessary to be good at what you’re trying to do.
KC: When you were competing, were you approaching it like you were back on the field?
ES: Not necessarily back on the field, but I definitely approached it from the work standpoint and from the structure standpoint. (I understood) how to break down the routine to where I learned bits and pieces of it, and put it all together at the end of the day. I think that’s a method that worked for me.
KC: And I know you’re dealing with gout now. Were you working through that form of arthritis at the time that you were dancing?
ES: At the time I did not have any gout flare ups at all. But I tell you what, if I did, it would’ve been very hard for me to perform, especially in three-inch heels, being on my toes for a long period of time! I had my first experience with it about two and a half years ago, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. After visiting with my physician and understanding that my uric acid levels at the time were fairly high, and I learned that I needed to do other things to try to lower them. That’s what I tried to do, and now I’m on the preventative side. I’m working with Takeda Pharmaceutical to bring just more awareness to over 8 million people who are dealing with it right now.
KC: What’s your take on the proposed rule that running backs won’t be able to lower their heads against defenders about to tackle them?
ES: I don’t agree with it. I think that there’s going to come a point and time in a game where there’s a critical yard or two that a player’s going to need to get a first down for his ball club and his most natural instinctive thing to do is to get behind his shoulder pads and go get those two yards if necessary. Now what I think what you’re going to see is guys running out of bounds, and the ball turns over on downs, and they may end up losing the game. Or you may see a guy lower his head and get the first down, he may get the first down but now you’ve got a 15-yard personal foul penalty coming against him and everybody’s going to be upset. So I think it’s an unfair rule. I think to ask a running back to run with his head up is exposing other areas of his body for physical contact, which is not right.
KC: What do you think your career would have been like if a rule like that had been around?
ES: Short. Very short.
KC: What makes a complete running back? Do you think that it’s a lost art with running back by committee now?
ES: I don’t think that it’s necessarily a lost art. I think now, with all the rule changes and so forth, I think the running back position is taking a major hit. I don’t think teams value running backs as much as they used to for various reasons. I think running back by committee is also preserving player’s bodies, therefore the value of the player itself, the value of the running back position is no longer there. But overall, I think when you look at running backs, when you start talking about the overall running backs back during the time when we played, when I played, I was in on first, second and third down. That meant I can run the ball on first, second and third and I can also block in pass situations when need be, and that part in itself, the block aspect of the running back, may be a lost art in today’s game.