Smith snubs Gators in Hall of Fame speech

By Adam Silverstein
August 7, 2010

Et tu, Emmitt?

Only the second former Florida Gators star to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, running back Emmitt Smith did not mention the University of Florida once during his enshrinement speech Saturday night. Jumping from his love, admiration and appreciation for the Dallas Cowboys to how integral his head coach and offensive coordinator at Escambia High School were to his career, Smith spoke as if he never even attended college.

Not only did Smith play at Florida, he broke the Gators’ all-time single game rushing record (224 yards) in his first full game with the team and went on to smash that record with a 316-yard game in 1989. He also set school records for rushing yards in a season (1,599), longest rushing play (96), career rushing yards (3,928) and career rushing touchdowns (36). In all, Smith was responsible for 58 Gators records in only three seasons on the field, many of which still stand today. And, upon leaving for the NFL, he received a place in UF’s exclusive Ring of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame.

But apparently none of that even occurred. At the very least, you would not know that it did if you listened to Smith speak Saturday night.

There are two schools of thought on this snub: Smith was either so emotional and caught up with the event that he accidentally skipped over Florida (after all, he did memorize his speech and paused plenty of times), or he purposely left out the Gators due to something unforeseen. It is hard to fathom another player from a top-flight college program forgetting or purposely omitting his school entirely.

Smith is certainly not Florida’s biggest cheerleader, and his relationship with UF is not as smooth as some of his peers’. Nevertheless, he had millions of Gators fans cheering him on throughout his career and tuning in Saturday night to take pride in one of their own earning professional football’s greatest honor. He did not mention the school, his college coaches, his fellow student-athletes or the fans – not once.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is about a player’s professional career. One earns the honor by what they accomplish on an NFL gridiron, not a college field. Even so, to disappoint an entire nation – Gator Nation – without so much as a single word of appreciation or nostalgic memory is simply unacceptable if done on purpose.

Smith deserved his honor Saturday. He played his heart out in Dallas and at Florida. He is one of the greatest Gators to ever step on the field and arguably the greatest rusher in NFL history. His accomplishments at UF and the pride he has brought its fans cannot and should not be diminished or dismissed because of one particular speech.

What Smith said Saturday night touched millions of fans across the country. But what he didn’t say certainly had a greater impact on one nation.

OGGOA QUICK READER REACTIONS: (Click the link below.)

The following quotes all came from followers of @OnlyGators on Twitter.

“This is [B.S.] […] It’s like he’s purposely snubbing them.”

“Wow! Can’t believe this. Not a word.”

“I wonder how Urban Meyer feels about it. Didn’t he go there to support Emmitt?”

“Definitley a snub. This is [B.S.]”

“I’m really surprised that Emmitt didn’t mention the Gators at all.”

“…and coach Meyer is in attendance. At least give a shout out to the Gators! No sideline passes at the next [national] championship.”

“Can’t imagine any future Gator hall of famer not mentioning UF.”

“Very disappointed in Emmitt for not mentioning anything about the Gators.”

“Shocking!”

“I got no problem is his name is removed from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Disrespectful.”

“I guess Emmitt will not be doing the Gator Chomp for Urban tonight.”

“It’s not an oversight. The Gators polarize a lot of people and bringing them up in that venue would have been risky.”

“We can all agree he should have mentioned UF, but he’s still a Gator. The snub is not worth trashing him.”

25 Comments

  1. pamela says:

    It’s my feeling that Emmitt did not snub UF, this honor was about his Pro career not college. When he was inducted into Florida’s Hall of Fame he didn’t talk about the Cowboys, only the Gators. Lighten up!

  2. O-town Gator says:

    Food for thought from a poster at [another site], who played under Charley Pell and Galen Hall:

    “As a former player (under Pell and Galen Hall), I don’t think the athletic department or University in general did a real good job of making you feel appreciated. Now I know they don’t owe anyone anything but I (speaking only for myself) thought the athletic department would at least send out mail or even an invite for athletic events from time to time. At least a homecoming for former Gators. Yes, you see some former players come back but most of that is at the athletes urging and not the program. The feeling I’ve heard from other guys (not just from UF players) is that once your not playing your out of sight and mind. I’ve heard that Urban is doing a good job of reaching back and bringing the old guys and embracing UF history.

    I think the University may have tried to distance itself from Pell and Galen’s classes somewhat as well. Add to the fact that the School constantly bombards you to make contributions as an alumni and it feels that it’s one sided to a degree.

    I know Emmitt loves UF but he’s probably not been invited back much in the past and if so, it was probably to get money out of him. Not much different from other schools actually.”

  3. Pamela – Not stressed about it. Just providing my opinion. Thanks for writing.

  4. dwlgator says:

    Emmitt was the only inductee that didn’t mention his college. Emmitt blew it and I dont want to hear about his supposed arms length relationship with the UF athletic department. All I ever hear from Gator fans is how much Emmitt means to them and how great Emmit is/was. I am no longer one of those Gator fans. Put me in the group that says Emmitt owes us some gratitude and some respect. When Gators talk about our championship success we alawys include Emmitt even though he never played for or won a Championship at Florida. Its like the Gator Nation was extending the same thanks and appreciation to Emmit that we do for our Championship greats. I am no longer in that group either. This was Emmitt’s chance to include the Gator Nation with his Championship success…..and he didn’t. What a slap in the face after all the support all of us have given Emmitt through the years.

  5. judy says:

    I am from where he grew up..in Florida and he is not well thought of by a lot of people…usually snubs that area as well…I was very surprised he even remembered his high school coach….unusual for him to do that….many other great athletes have come from pensacola and they do remember where they came from…..and not mentioning his college…even though this was about his pro life…is unacceptable. Shame on him! All the other ones remembered their college days….it is a shame!

  6. Danielle says:

    I can’t imagine he purposefully snubbed the Gators. Every time you see an interview with Emmitt these days, regardless of the context, he is doing the Chomp. Was it a pretty big error? Sure. But I don’t think he was trying to intentionally diss the program. Remember, this is a guy who went back to finish his degree at UF while doing very well in the NFL. Yes, Meyer went to cheer him on, because Meyer has worked to bring back alum and Emmitt is one of the guys Meyer has opened the program to. Too bad he didn’t chomp on that stage, but he’s a Gator, no doubt. Thanks Adam – you do a great job.

  7. Danielle- I agree, it is hard to believe…which is why it is disappointing.

  8. dwlgator says:

    @ Pamela, Emmitt didnt talk about the Cowboys when he was inducted into the UF ring of honor…..because he didnt attend.

  9. Bruce says:

    Ahhh, the ultimate Paso doble from the new hall of famer; this time the Gators were left playing the role of a “cappa!” Would the fate of Senior Emmitt have been the same if he had played college ball somewhere else? Perhaps Jerry would not have been so blessed and he would have had to settle for twins instead….”Pax”

  10. Danielle says:

    Well, it’s probably stupid, but I tweeted Emmitt to ask if leaving out Gators was intentional b/c I’ve been a fan of his since I attended my first Orange and Blue game at a young age. I agree, Adam. It’s disappointing, because regardless of his relationship with UF, there are so many Gators fans who have loved him throughout his career. A little heartbroken, actually. At least I still have my Emmitt Smith signed Orange and Blue program from 1988…

  11. SaraGator says:

    I watched the ESPN special with Emmitt Smith that was held at his high school. Can’t remember if it was half hour long or an hour long. He spoke about his high school and the Cowboys at great lengths, but gave barely 30 seconds to UF.

    I believe it was an intentional diss and my heart had changed in regards to his character. Even if he’s carrying some form of animosity, he can still take a few seconds to mention UF, because after all UF did prepare him for the NFL.

  12. Bob says:

    Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who noticed that Emmitt didn’t mention UF at all. Like others have said, he’s a Gator and that’s THE REASON I cared so much for him as a player in the NFL. He did things on the football field that I’ve never seen anyone do (Percy included, who had a different ability to make people miss).

    Emmitt was a bright light during a pretty down time in UF football history. I’m sorry that his relationship with the program is not as the fans’ appreciation of him while at UF. I was very disappointed that he snubbed Gator Nation, but he’s still a Gator in my book and I love him for that.

  13. Bob says:

    btw Adam, another great job reporting on this as always.

  14. BBGATOR says:

    I agree with Judy , Emmitt is no saint…. he does have a side of him the Tv viewers dont see, just remember when your in front of a camera all the smiles and happy persona doesnt truly say who you are…. Cheshire Cat

  15. Daniel M. says:

    While I’m disappointed, I can’t say I’m surprised…

    Emmitt Smith is an enigmatic character. I have kept him at arm’s length for quite a while. At some point his ego took control and he steadily alienated me. Slowly but surely my affection for him shifted to annoyance.

    Make no mistake, his on field prowess at UF was a beautiful thing to watch. The hard numbers he etched in Florida record books will never be forgotten. Watching his 316 yard display from section 17 was a mesmerizing blur and a thing of beauty. He would hit top speed in about a two steps and then just humiliate defenders with his powerful legs, great vision, and uncanny balance. From a Gator football entertainment standpoint he is in the conversation with a guy named Tim. Seeing his name on the ring of honor elicits electric memories from any Gator fan.

    Athletes of his stature always have a giant ego and Smith is no exception. Some athletes keep it in check (Dan Marino, Derek Jeter) and others (Curt Schilling, Terrell Owens) seem to let it take them over. It has to be a difficult task to tame your ego when you have a lifelong football resume that sags from the weight of your accomplishments. At some point though Emmitt’s ego became bigger than his humility and that’s when my BS meter started to peg.

    Regardless of age or productivity, if an NFL team is willing to sign you to play running back you likely have some gas in the tank and toughness qualities that few men will ever know. But when he signed with the Arizona /Cardinals it was nothing more than a last ditch effort to break the all time rushing mark. He was well past his prime and his only option was to head off to a football wasteland like the Cardinals were then. You can’t blame the guy for doing whatever it took to break the record. Even though RB’s are becoming dispensable in the NFL, the career rushing yards record is still the gold standard for NFL accomplishments.

    The move was understandable, but the accompanying sound bytes about “being here to win a championship” were insulting. That’s when my Emmitt Smith Scale of Justice got a lead sinker tossed on the unfavorable side. His one day contract with the Cowboys and ensuing retirement press conference was more of the same. Countless references to Mr. Jones “taking a chance on a skinny kid from Pensacola.” Sure Emmitt, you were a completely unknown entity then right? His ego was in overdrive that day when he came off as a guy who felt that he had a tougher road to the NFL than anyone else. Not.

    He should have quit television broadcasting after about 9 minutes on the set. He stuck around that gig for an uncomfortable amount of time and did irreparable damage to the english language. Don’t suppose the ego got in the way there. Finally, mercifully, he was not renewed.

    He didn’t mention the Florida Gators or the Arizona Cardinals last night in his Hall of Fame induction speech. I only know this from what I have read this morning. I didn’t watch a moment of the HOF ceremonies because listening to people thank other people makes my eyes roll to the back of my head. I don’t believe that Emmitt forgot to mention Florida because he was delivering his speech free style and maybe he was nervous. Some slight, who knows how big or small, led him to a conscious decision to leave Florida out. You see, his ego tells him that he is bigger than Gator Nation, bigger than the Gator football program, bigger than The University of Florida, even bigger than the Gator Football Ring of Honor.

  16. Mr2Bits says:

    Has anyone interviewed Emmitt on this topic yet as I’m sure it will gain steam this week? I too find it odd that he was more sold on his high school career and then his pro completely leaving off the college ball that got him to the next level.

  17. SaraGator says:

    Amen, Daniel M! A bigger person would have taken 2 seconds to thank UF, because after all… UF did prepare him for the NFL.

    Now I know why Spurrier didn’t bow down to him.

  18. Buckeye says:

    It’s pretty obvious if he intentionally snubbed gator nation he has reason to. Reading all the negative personal comments by gator nation about a guy they’ve never met ???? Reason answered !!!!!
    If only gator nation could step outside of itself for a moment and see and hear what everyone else does. You reap what you sow.

  19. BullGators says:

    Very well written article and I couldn’t agree more.

  20. Mr2Bits says:

    Buckeye : I’m not really sure I’m following your logic. What negative comments has anyone said about him before he stuck his middle finger up to the fans and the program that made him what he is today? Even after given the F U, you didn’t make me feel special enough so I’ll snub you in my HOF speech, nobody has said anything bad about him in all this except their feelings of hurt and betrayal. The few commentors who have said negative things have had these opinions far before this incident and this only solidifies their feelings for him, feelings which every person is entitled to.

  21. Buckeye says:

    Mr2Bits – I get and understand what you’re saying … but one of 2 things happened. 1) He missed it 2) He felt he had a reason.
    These comments are examples of arrogance and ignorance, not hurt and betrayal. IMHO.

    “I didn’t watch a moment of the HOF ceremonies because listening to people thank other people makes my eyes roll to the back of my head.” – Then why does it bother you so much he didn’t thank gator nation?

    “He should have quit television broadcasting after about 9 minutes on the set.” – I’m sure in your humble “professional” opinion?

    “when he signed with the Arizona /Cardinals it was nothing more than a last ditch effort to break the all time rushing mark” Interesting insight, he broke the record in 2002 with the Cowboys before he went to the Cardinals in 2003.

    “Very well written article and I couldn’t agree more.” Even if it’s someone else’s opinion along with inaccurate?

    “You see, his ego tells him that he is bigger than Gator Nation, bigger than the Gator football program, bigger than The University of Florida, even bigger than the Gator Football Ring of Honor.”
    Mmmm… all time leading rusher in the NFL, along with numerous other NFL records that will likely never be broken, member of the NFL Hall of Fame,….. I think that’s bigger.

    “when your in front of a camera all the smiles and happy persona doesnt truly say who you are” A HOF speech does?

  22. Daniel M. says:

    Hey “Buckeye”, can’t you just man up and post as the jaded and biased UM an that you are? Your comments aren’t worth replying to as they are asinine. Have a great day.

  23. Charlie says:

    It’s HIS induction, HIS speech, and HIS moment. He can thank and acknowledge anyone he wishes to. Emmett Smith is one of the greatest to ever play the sport and big ego or not he is bigger certainty than this “Gator Nation” mentioned here.

  24. O-town Gator says:

    From what I’ve been seeing on Twitter in the last few minutes, Emmitt’s exepcted to give credit where credit is due and give a shout-out to UF as well; he also tweeted his own thank-yous as well.

    Once he does that, perhaps everybody whose feathers were ruffled over last night will calm down and stop all these silly attacks on him. His oversight wasn’t intentional, as far as I see it.

  25. SC Gator says:

    Oh for the love of…

    Get over it people. We are talking about a guy that even did a chomp when he was on dancing with the stars. I don’t know why he didn’t say anything about UF. I don’t know why he says half the stuff he does. There is a reason you don’t see him doing a lot of TV work, making speeches isn’t really his cup of tea.

    And if he did leave UF out intentionally, so what? It might be worth a news article but it’s hardly worth getting your panties in a wad over.

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