The Gentleman Beyond the Goal Line
It goes without saying that Emmitt Smith had success on the football field, making him one of the legends of the game. Holding the record of the most rushing yards in NFL history tends to stay with you, both on and off the field. If you spend even five minutes with Emmitt, you will quickly learn (as I did) that he is so much more than a National Hall of Fame Football star. He’s a mentor, a businessman, and most importantly, a devoted husband and father.
After hanging up his cleats, Emmitt transitioned to commercial real estate and development, establishing his continually growing portfolio companies. He said he became interested in the real estate industry after beginning to invest in land developments in Florida. He saw for himself how these investments began to grow into profits and became intrigued. He saw the opportunities this industry possessed and as the cash flow grew, he started to ask more questions and later leveraged himself within the commercial real estate space.
Even though Emmitt may have transitioned from the gridiron, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t take the lessons and discipline’s he learned with him into the business world he’s now immersed in. In fact, Emmitt shared with me that there are definite analogies one could use between the two. He said as a football player he studied the playbook, the opposing team and even his own team, both offense and defense, in order to really understand all that is going on. And just like in football, with his business, he studies the potential business opportunities (retail spaces opening up), his competitors and his entire team and industry. Organizational structure, he believes, begins with a vision, working hard, staying humble as you continue to strive for more and work well with others to have the entire business become the best that it can be.
Emmitt credits his recently departed mother and God for being the driving forces responsible for guiding him through his life. He said “God’s grace and mercy has carried me through each facet of my life.”
This undoubtedly explains where Emmitt’s ongoing philanthropic heart comes from. Emmitt and his wife of seventeen years, Pat Smith merged their passion for giving back to create The Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities, which they both manage. Now in its eighth year, Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities include transformational programs such as TEAM 22 – a select group of children who receive hands-on mentoring from Pat & Emmitt. These kids are given opportunities to experience things such as summer camps and other special outings they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Whether it is a visit to Washington D.C. to meet presidents’ George W. Bush and Barack Obama, or mentoring sessions with professionals in the workforce to help guide them in a success driven direction after school. The Smith’s believe exposure leads to inspiration. In addition to TEAM 22, Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities has impacted over 130,000 underserved children in North Texas and written over 140 grants to other charity organizations.
“Never forget where you came from.” is a statement from Emmitt’s mother that he carries with him every day. And just like his mother who was always present to offer advice and to be a positive example throughout his life, Emmitt works at being the best for his own children. He is a devoted father who tries to make sure that his own children understand that their lives started, as he put it, on “3rd base.” He wants each of his kids to understand that they have been fortunate to have opportunities that both he and their mother did not have. “I encourage my kids to broaden their perspectives on life and realize not everyone is as fortunate; some people had to start at first base, some the dugout,” stated Emmitt. He manages to do this by creating an environment that cultivates open communication, he encourages hard work and he and Pat have them involved in their charities that help other kids their age to garner further world perspectives. He has them practice mental toughness and tells them to always live in a way that you don’t forget to give to others in need. “I don’t want them to go through life with blinders on, insensitive to the needs of others and their responsibility even as kids to help others whenever they can.
The woman that captured Emmitt’s heart many years ago, was the beautiful and ever successful, Pat Smith.
When I asked him to talk about his role as a husband, he said. “It’s all about first and foremost taking care of my family. Another aspect is for me to honor, respect, and encourage my wife to seek after her dreams and aspirations. I will be her biggest supporter.” He makes sure that she doesn’t get the feeling of the notion that this is a “man’s world.” In fact, Emmitt mentioned that women inspire him because they are able to continue to involve themselves, all the while many times, making personal sacrifices to do so. He said that he believes that women, internally, are a lot stronger than men.
“I look for the positive things in life, otherwise you get lost in the negative.” Emmitt said this is one of the first pieces of advice he offers to people asking for direction in business, in sports and in life. He believes that a number of things through his journey, with the help of God’s grace, pushed him to his destiny. He finds incredible enjoyment in what he does as a real estate businessman as he did crossing that red zone over and over…and over again. He doesn’t look at his career as “work,” it’s a passion. “Football helped me realize that the decisions I make have an effect on more than just me; it’s a team effort. He extends this line of thinking in his business portfolio. He lives his life in a way where he is cognizant to live in a humble manner. He gives back to others when there’s a need. He stated he treats everyone with the same amount of respect, no matter who you are. He stated, “You never know where life will take you. Be careful how you treat people. You may meet the same people on your way down that you met at the top. It’s all about keeping that perspective; don’t live with blinders on.”
It’s always a great feeling when there are world class athletes who you meet and they are charming, humble, charismatic and just plain kind. I certainly left with that impression of Emmitt. In fact, the analogy I would use comes from the quote, “Live in such a way that if anyone had anything bad to say about you, that no one would believe them.” – That’s Emmitt Smith. A Man of God, A Father, A Husband, A Philanthropist, An NFL All-Time Rusher and a complete Southern Gentleman…way beyond the goal line.