Although perhaps best known as a legendary running back whose 15-year NFL career earned him induction into the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, Emmitt Smith is also a businessman, philanthropist, reality TV competition champ, husband, and father of five children. With the sun primed to rise on an all-new academic year, Smith spoke exclusively with Examiner on Aug. 12 about his back-to-school fueled partnership with Quaker Oats, and on several other topics, including who he thinks should compete on “Dancing with the Stars,” the secret behind his 15-year marriage to wife Pat, and his picks for the two teams who will battle it out for Superbowl rings in 2016.
Sherry Wight: All around the nation, schools are starting to open and kids are getting ready to hit the books again. What can we, as parents, do to help children to re-adjust to the school routine?
Emmitt Smith: One thing I think parents can do it start to set the back-to-school routine a week earlier. Establishing the right sleep patterns for kids begins by making sure they’re bringing it back in from summer vacation when they were able to stay up til 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night, and now you’re putting back into the routine where eight and nine o’clock may be the most appropriate time to go to bed. That’s what we try to do in our household.
At the same time, a week in advance of school, get them on the routine of having a proper diet and eating breakfast in the morning whether it’s oatmeal, whether it’s cereal, grits, fruits, yogurt, all of those things, or even if it’s just juicing. Getting them fueled up and ready for school in the morning is something that’s extremely important. It gives them the chance to go to school with a positive mindset.
So Quaker and myself have teamed up. You can follow Quaker on Twitter, and tell us how you fuel up for your back to school program, and enter to be one of 1,000 to win a Fuel Pack sponsored by Quaker, but you’ve got to do that by Aug. 14 at midnight. The grand prize winner can win four tickets to any NFL game this season and a chance to chat with me over the phone.
SW: Your marriage has spanned 15 years so far, which is awesome. Congratulations on that. What’s kept the two of you together when so many other unions have failed?
ES: I would like to think it’s our faith, number one. Number two I think it’s the power of communication. That’s something that’s constantly been a challenge, but at times, you’ve got to bring in the third party. My wife and I, we go get check-ups. We deal with counseling… to keep us both in check. Marriage is not something that’s easy, but nothing in life is easy. School is not easy for kids and football wasn’t easy for me… but if it’s something you truly believe in, it’s something you’ve got to fight for and be willing to do what you need to do make it work.
SW: Totally. Let’s talk a little about football. Obviously you were an incredibly accomplished NFL player, but do you have a moment from your career that stands out as particularly poignant?
ES: There are so many things that stand out, but the things that haunt me the most are some of the losses, whether they were in high school or a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship or a game when I fumbled a ball and cost our team a chance to win the game.
SW: Okay, I can see how those would be memorable. Now I love “Dancing with the Stars” so of course I saw a lot of you and Cheryl Burke during season three and again during the all-star season. First of all, congratulations on being the original and only true twinkle toes.
ES: Thank you [laughs].
SW: What made you decide to compete on that show in the first place?
ES: I was asked to do it a number of times and I turned it down. The first season, Evander Holyfield decided to do it. The second season, Jerry Rice decided to do it. [I didn’t know] if they’d call again, but they did… and I couldn’t tell ’em no three times in a row. But watching Jerry and watching Master P perform gave me some kind of confidence that yes, I could get out there and dance and perform and entertain as well, and hopefully position myself to win.
But I didn’t realize the stiff competition that I was going to be facing. Mario Lopez, Joey Lawrence, and many others [who were] on the show that particular season…. It was a complete challenge for me. So stepping outside of my own comfort zone and fueling up properly helped me go through all of the tough practices that Cheryl put me through and it was just a great, great experience. I loved it and I would not trade it for nothing else in the world.
SW: Awesome! I like to hear that. Where do you keep your mirror ball trophy, and which is more popular: your Superbowl rings or that?
ES: Oh, which is more popular is the mirror ball trophy by far. People don’t often ask to see my Superbowl rings. [The trophy] is in my office where people [from] all walks of life come in and want to see it. Sometimes it moves because I don’t keep my eye on it; other people move it around to show people and forget to put it back [laughs].
SW: As a show champion, who do you think should compete on a future season?
ES: That’s a really, really good question. It’s kind of hard to say because there are so many talented people in this world. My wife has been begging to get on the show and compete. I don’t know if she’s [a] good [answer] or not. It’s a really great question, I just don’t know. Maybe Tom Cruise.
SW: Oh, now that would be good. Well, if you come up with an answer, drop it on Twitter.
ES: All right.
SW: All right, last one. I want you to predict it: who’s going to appear in the Superbowl this coming season, and who’s going to win?
ES: Dallas Cowboys.
SW: Who are they going to play?
ES: Who’re they gonna play? That’s a great question. Let’s see, AFC opponent, AFC opponent [pauses]. Could be Baltimore.