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Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith is no stranger to show business

Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith was the keynote speaker at the Salvation Army luncheon at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel.
Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith was the keynote speaker at the Salvation Army luncheon at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Emmitt Smith is a family man.

He’s a community man.

He’s a TV personality.

And he used to play a little football.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith was in Fort Worth as the keynote speaker at The Salvation Army’s “Doing The Most Good” luncheon.

He reflected on starring in a pilot show with his wife on the Oprah Winfrey Network and his appearance on Dancing With the Stars and NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are.

Last month, Smith and his wife, Pat, debuted in the OWN premiere of “Mrs. & Mr. Smith”, which follows the lives of the couple and their family.

“We don’t know if they’re going to pick it up or not, but we shot a pilot,” he said. “It was cool. It was entertaining.”

The former Dallas Cowboys great is no stranger to show business.

He and professional dance partner Cheryl Burke won the third season of ABC’s ultra-popular prime-time reality show Dancing With the Stars in 2006. He was featured on NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are in 2010. He also appeared on Dancing With the Stars All-Stars in 2012.

Smith said Dancing With the Stars was a unique experience that included 12-hour work days.

“Cheryl was like (former Dallas coach) Jimmy Johnson by the way. I thought I could do this show and learn how do a minute, 30 second routine in about four hours a day. I think I could put in that much and half days at work, half days in the studio,” he said. “Well, when I had a month to prepare, that worked. But once the show began and I got beat by Jerry Springer all bets were off.

“So I went from four hours a day to eight hours a day. And then from eight hours a day until 12 hours a day, just trying not only to learn the routine but get the style, the techniques and to be able to have it ingrained in my body so I could get out of my head when I’m dancing and start to have fun and know exactly where I was going to be out on the dance floor. To me, that’s what life is all about. You learn your trade, you get out of the way and you allow your God natural ability to take over from that point on.”

Smith became very emotional when referencing the show Who Do You Think You Are that traced his family’s lineage from Benin, Africa, to Burnt Corn, Ala.

“Everyone knows in this room that slaves came from Africa and so forth. But people may not realize is that show took me all the way back to an area called Benin, which is a small, small country. One of the top 10 poorest counties in the world,” he said. “Going back there and taking that journey to the coast, and seeing how all the salves were not only captured but the moat they were kept in for about 15, 16 days until the boat came. Then having to take this two- to three-mile walk in chains from this moat all the way down to the coast and get shipped out.

“Somehow or another, my great ancestors survived it and made it into Burnt Corn.”

Smith said there’s an important lesson in knowing your history.

“Never forget where you came from because it’s that journey itself that makes you truly appreciate where you are today because you’re not where you once were,” he said. “You’re definitely further along. And God’s grace smooths out all the rough edges.”

Smith’s busy schedule continues next week when he will be presented the Salvation Army’s Evangeline Booth Award along with television host Kathy Lee Gifford, Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice-President/Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson, creative director Stan Richards of the Richards Group, and Asbury University. The ceremony will be part of the Expect Change National Advisory Organizations Conference (NAOC) in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Evangeline Booth Award honors exceptional individuals, corporations and organizations who best reflect the spirit, commitment and innovative vision of Evangeline Booth, the fourth daughter of the Salvation Army founders.

Past winners included Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, singer Reba McEntire, President George W. Bush & former First Lady Laura Bush and others.

Smith serves as chairman of the advisory council for the Youth Education Town at the Salvation Army in Arlington, a learning center for disadvantaged children.

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