My Attempted Tribute to Emmitt Smith

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about one of my favorite Dallas Cowboys players of all-time, who recently announced his retirement. Jason Witten is one of the greats, and would have been right at home with the great Super Bowl teams from the early nineties. Towards the end of that post, I discussed how I wanted to draw a few more tributes to my favorite Cowboys. I was in my early teens during that last run as a championship contender (how time flies), and became a huge fan of guys like Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and the rest of Jimmy Johnson’s crew.

I decided this evening to give an Emmitt Smith portrait a try! For background, as most fans know, Emmitt is the all-time rushing yard king and all-time rushing touchdown leader. Although Troy Aikman was absolutely great in his own right, I think many would agree that those Super Bowl teams ran largely on Emmitt’s back. Interestingly, he was never known for overwhelming power or dazzling speed. I’ve always thought of him as like the Terminator of NFL running backs; consistent, durable, and a never-stopping force.  As opposed to Barry Sanders (who was amazing in quite the opposite way), Emmitt was a north-south runner and was the perfect fit to take advantage of the Cowboys blocking.

So, here’s what I ended up with:

I have many criticisms of this drawing. First and foremost, it only bears a passing resemblance to Emmitt Smith. I mean, you can almost…sort of…if you squint just right, think it looks like him. But, honestly I think it looks a lot like former Dallas receiver Dez Bryant. From the eyes up, this does look like Emmitt. But, the nose/mouth/chin area look much more like Dez. I also think I layed down too much color, which caused me to lose some definition. I’m not entirely sure how I got there, but I do have a theory…

Tonight was the NBA Draft Lottery. For those not familiar with it, the NBA has a system in which you have certain percentage point chances at various draft orders based on your season record. My favorite team, naturally, is the Dallas Mavericks. They finished in the number three slot based on win/loss records and tiebreakers…so, decent shots at the first or second overall picks, and if not, I was good with number three. Well, to my extreme dismay, the Mavericks fell down two spots to number five! I think consensus is that there is probably a top tier of players at 1-2 or 1-3, and the Mavs fell right out of that.

Anyway, the pencil outline and some basics were done prior to the NBA draft lottery tonight. But the rest was done afterwards. It was pretty cathartic actually, pounding down some color to get my frustrations out! But, I don’t think I was paying really great attention. So, unfortunately I think this Emmitt Smith portraits suffered a bit. But I do feel a bit better at least. Sorry Emmitt, you definitely deserve better than that.

I think you can sort of see how the fidelity deteriorated in the progression. And the pencil outline was I think the best version. In this case, I may have been better served by sticking with graphite. I may try this one again sometime when I’m more focused. This man is an all-time great, after all!

Amdall Emmitt Smith progression


  • Nice drawing. Good likeness.

    • Thanks Roshanda! I do like this one, but when I look at it I think “not quite there.” I almost captured a good Emmitt likeness, but there’s just something about the mouth and nose that makes me want to keep tweaking it. I don’t have a great track record going back to old artwork though – I tend to completely mess them up that way.

  • Yep, you can easily spend a couple of weeks just in London and not bother to visit the rest of the country….sometimes I go to London when I am over there, but not every time πŸ˜‰

  • I don’t know his face well enough to comment on the likeness too much (sorry, not a big sports fan, here, and British too! πŸ™‚ ), but, I would say that if you are more satisfied with the initial sketch than the final result maybe you should try what your gut is telling you, Jon, monotone in graphite. My guess is that the color version is flattening his features out too much and that is what is throwing things off and doing tone only will make you more aware of where the darks and lights are and most importantly, HOW light or dark they should be! then you just have to translate that into color (a good trick with this problem is to turn the color picture black and white using photoshop or whatever) Keep up the good work, you’re doing Great!!! πŸ™‚

    • Very insightful, Hilda! I think you’re right on the money – the color really did flatten the defining features too much. I didn’t even think about digitally removing the color, that’s a great idea! I’m going to do it, and see if that helps at all. Maybe some more contrast added through a program too?

      Also, I didn’t know you were British! That’s very cool – I guess I’m talking about the wrong kind of football, eh?

      • Yep, I have lived almost half my life in the US and half in the UK, at this point (born in UK, married to an American, lived here ever since πŸ˜‰ )

      • That sounds like some pretty fun variety – I’ve only been to the UK once, but I really enjoyed it. My wife and I went to London as part of our honeymoon, and it was such a cool place

  • Awesome! Emmit Smith was one of the best running backs during a great time in football. The Cowboys dynasty was fantastic because of quarterback, defense and of course the superior running game. Awesome sketch!

    • Much appreciated! That awesome 90s Cowboys dynasty really came along at the perfect time to hook me for life. It makes me wonder if I’d be so crazy about them if they had been bad. Of course, I’m a big Mavs fan too, and the 1990s were defintely not kind to them!

      Those really were fun teams though – Emmitt just might be my favorite of that era

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