Fans remember Emmitt Smith as a star in three Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victories in the 1990s.
During Black History Month, people in a southern Dallas neighborhood consider him special for a different reason.
Smith's work at that building is one of many good things the African American superstar does with his fame and fortune.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and State Senator Royce West were part of the ribbon-cutting recently to re-open a building Emmitt Smith bought and renovated on South Lancaster Road.
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It was an abandoned eyesore for many years, right across from the Dallas VA Medical Center in a neighborhood that needed a boost.
“What I’ve done on the football field, what I’m doing off the football field, I’m trying to stay consistent in terms of what I am as a person,” Smith said.
He’s now a successful real estate businessman and construction contractor.
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With a dream of changing lives at the Lancaster Road building, Smith now has two higher education tenants, Dallas College and The University of North Texas at Dallas.
“Much has been given to me and I have an opportunity to take this platform which God has blessed me with and share with others. And I’m trying to share it in the best way that I can, by inspiring others to be on a level of greatness. And this center has a lot of potential for that,” Smith told dignitaries that day.
Football was Smith’s focus for greatness in the 1990s. He spent 13 years of his 15 year NFL career with the Cowboys. Number 22 earned four NFL rushing titles on the football field.
He got emotional, fighting back tears at his 2005 retirement, as he thanked all the people who helped him succeed.
“I'm grateful to all the people and fans,” Smith said.
After all these years, Smith said African Americans are under-represented at the highest levels of NFL coaching and management.
“It really starts at the top with the right mindset for the folks trying to get up to the top,” he said.
Over the years Smith has found many ways to give back to the community. He appeared with First Lady Jill Biden at a 2021 event in Dallas to promote COVID-19 vaccination. He’s supported many charities.
“Martin Luther King laid down a lot of foundation for who we are or are supposed to become as a country. And I’m just doing my part as a citizen to try to make those dreams come true for others. I’ve lived my dream. And I continue to live my dream here in America. But there’s more work to be done,” Smith said.
He credited the political leaders at the Lancaster Road ribbon cutting with serving as mentors to him as he works to promote opportunity.