Troy Moon • firstname.lastname@example.org • June 4, 2010
The ESPN show about Emmitt Smith's Pensacola upbringing, "Homecoming with Rick Reilly," taped Thursday at the football legend's alma mater, Escambia High School.
But the real homecoming began Wednesday night when Smith visited with fans and friends at The Fish House, a popular Pensacola restaurant. Smith, a retired Dallas Cowboys running back, spent hours there during the day with family and friends. He then returned late in the evening for dinner and to mingle with professional dancers from the hit ABC show "Dancing with the Stars," many of whom are in town for a benefit tonight for Covenant Hospice.
The NFL's all-time leading rusher won the competition, which pairs professional dancers with celebrities, won the network's "Dancing With Stars" competition in 2006.
"He's a great guy and a wonderful dancer," said Tony Dovolani, one of four of the show's dancers who dined at The Fish House on Wednesday. "He just has so much agility and grace." While Smith and his brother, Emory, waited for their jerk grouper and shrimp dinners, some of the restaurant's patrons peered into Smith's booth and snapped photos with cell phone cameras. "Oh, man, that's Emmitt Smith," said Army Staff Sgt. Senovio Martinez, who is on a temporary duty assignment in Pensacola. "I'm a huge Dallas Cowboy fan. A fanatic." Then, Martinez turned to his friend, Air Force Tech Sgt. Ivan Gonzalez, also in Pensacola on a temporary assignment. "I'm going to ask for his autograph," Martinez said. "No you're not. Are you really?" A few moments later, the two military men approached Smith's table. "Sir, I'm a huge Cowboys fan," Martinez said, before explaining that he and his friend were here in the military. He then held out a dollar bill and asked Smith for an autograph. "What branch are you in?" Smith asked. The men talked for about 30 seconds, and Smith signed a bill for both. "He was the best," Martinez said. "He was really friendly." Then, Martinez exploded in a fit of nervous laughter. "Man, I can't believe we come in here and run into Emmitt Smith," he said. "What are the odds of that?"