Special to the Press-Argus Courier
One of the greatest running backs in the history of the National Football League will be coming to Fort Smith this year.
Emmitt Smith, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL’s all-time career leading rusher, will be the guest speaker at the fourth annual River Valley Best of Preps banquet.
The Best of Preps banquet will take place on May 29, 2020, at the Fort Smith Convention Center. The event is hosted by the Times Record and is presented by Arvest and Taco Bell.
In his 15 seasons in the National Football League, Smith amassed many records that still stand today, including the most career rushing yards and the most career rushing touchdowns. Smith’s impressive resume includes three Super Bowl championships as a member of the Dallas Cowboys and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
As a first-round pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, Smith was the cornerstone of the Dallas Cowboys’ offense for 13 seasons. The eight-time Pro Bowler was the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons and on Oct. 27, 2002, he surpassed Walter Payton as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Smith also played for the Arizona Cardinals.
After his playing days, Smith served as a football analyst and then took his television career a step further when he won the third season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” during which he was dubbed “The king of effortless cool.” He also added author to his list of accomplishments, publishing Game On, which outlines the principles that helped him succeed both on and off the field.
Currently, Smith has transitioned to the role of businessman and entrepreneur and runs several companies spanning real estate, construction and technology. Active in charitable outreach both in the Dallas area and on a national level, Smith founded Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities with his wife to provide unique experiences and educational opportunities to underserved youth.
Smith currently resides with his wife, Pat, and their five children in Dallas.
The River Valley Best of Preps event brings together top high school athletes from seven counties throughout the area. The evening includes awards for Team of the Year, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year from more than 19 different sports, as well as other awards for the area’s most inspirational athletes.
State champions and athlete All-Stars, named throughout the year by the Times Record sports team, also receive free admission to this star-studded event.
Business sponsors help provide free tickets for all the local honorees. Dinner and dessert are included, and VIPs and award-winning athletes and coaches will have the opportunity to have photos taken with Smith, who will also speak during the event.
“Obviously, Arvest is proud to sponsor this, and any time we can have the opportunity to be a community partner and recognize the athletes and the parents that do so much for these communities that we service, we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” Beth Presley of Arvest said. “This is our fourth year to be a part of it, and to see how much it’s grown and how much it’s taken off, and to have a name like Emmitt Smith come in, it’s going to be exciting for the whole community to be a part of this, not just the athletes and the parents.
“It amazes me how well the banquet is; it’s one of my top favorite banquets that we do. ... The (Best of Preps) banquet is top-notch, it’s professional, it’s done in a timely manner and it’s done in a way that recognizes the hard work of the athletes and all the blood, sweat and tears that goes into being an athlete and a student-athlete and how they honor not only their hard work on the court but in the classroom and the other things that the athletes do in the community.”
The Best of Preps event will mark its fourth year in 2020. Previous guest speakers were former Arkansas Razorback football players Darren McFadden and Alex Collins, as well as former Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast Gabby Douglas.
Tina Reagan, president and COO of KMAC Enterprises/Taco Bell, added that KMAC Enterprises/Taco Bell hopes that “everyone, especially the students, takes away from River Valley Preps a sense of pride and accomplishment, so that as they go forward in life, they have the confidence to become leaders in their careers and communities.”
Honorees will be announced in the paper and then notified by letters from the Times Record. Information on purchasing tickets to the event can be found at www.swtimes.com/preps.