Emmitt Smith worries his career has taken toll

Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith has more carries than any other player in NFL history. His 4,409 attempts are 571 more than Walter Payton, who sits in second place.

The type of punishment Smith took averaging nearly 20 carries per game is no secret to anyone who followed his 15-year NFL career. After the suicide death of All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau last week, Smith admitted his concerns about the toll his lengthy career might’ve taken on his mind and body.

“Why wouldn’t I worry,” Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry. I pray about it.”

Many voiced their opinions about Seau’s death, and the notion that a successful professional athlete couldn’t be depressed frustrates Smith.

“It’s never about the money,” Smith said. “It’s about the individual person, whether that person has fulfillment in life, having meaning and find a way to have joy and peace in their life. If you don’t have those things and don’t have a sense of self worth left, depression can set in and lead to other things. It’s just a sad situation. I don’t look at it lightly. I don’t know if it was head trauma or not.

“Where Junior was at today mentally, players may not identify with because they are in the now. He was in the yesterday. They have to realize his yesterday is their tomorrow. Just going through life itself and through the transitions of leaving a sport we all played for a number of years. Sometimes when that light goes out it’s hard to find another light that fuels you.”

Smith participated in the interview to promote The Emmitt Smith Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament scheduled for May 11-12 at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney. Even discussing the charity event made Smith reflect on the need to seek motivation after a professional football career has ended.

“It’s only so much golf you can play,” Smith said. “Only so many vacations you can take. Plus you are retiring at 35, for me. For some others, it may be sooner. You have to find something else to motivate you, to inspire you to get up every day to find a sense of self worth. At the end of the day it’s about personal choice and it’s about finding your way through life. That’s not an easy thing to do for people who have been to the top, so to speak, in one area and then find themselves in a valley afterward.”

Follow Jon Machota on Twitter: @jonmachota