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All-time rusher still feels strong

He holds the NFL record for total rushing yards with 18,286. He is defying those who said that at age 35 he did not belong in the NFL. But entering today's game against the Bucs, former Gators star Emmitt Smith needs 132 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Smith shared some of his thoughts with Times staff writer Roger Mills and members of the area media.

Have you enjoyed the 2004 season?

I've had a good time. I'm playing with a good group of guys that fight hard and come to work every day with their hammer and hard hat ready to go out to practice and prepare themselves to go out on Sunday and hopefully give a good performance.

What's your plan for the future?

Finish the season strong and see where it's at after that.

Do players take it personally when members of the media suggest that it's time for them to retire?

Yeah, they do take it personally. Nobody tells you when you should quit writing. It's often times when people look at athletes and based on historical events and historical ages and those kind of things (and say) that players should go ahead and leave the game alone, based on whether their performance is not up to par. I think at some point in time there will be a situation where a player truly has to evaluate his skills and his level and what he's doing. But there are some unforeseen situations that occur in every athlete's career, mostly in the latter part of his career, in some cases in the middle part of his career. Teams try to bring in younger players to replace those guys and want to see those older guys move on. In a lot of cases, some of the younger players are not ready to step in and do what the team wants them to do.

You're pretty confident you'll know when it's time to hang it up?

There's no question in my mind at all. Put it this way, if I'm on the football field and I can make some guys miss and I can be an effective runner and do my job effectively, in the manner which I think I can (I'll play), and if I cannot do those things then in my mind, it's definitely time to hang it up. Also, if my body doesn't feel like it has the will or desire to keep going on, coupled with my talents starting to slip from me, those kind of things, then yeah, I think it's time to hang it up. Right now, I don't feel like that's the case. But I still have a decision to make at the end of the season.

Do you remember being recruited by Bucs coach Jon Gruden two seasons ago?

I had received information through some players. The courtship wasn't that strong. I don't think it ever got to the point where me and Gruden ever sat down and talked one on one about me coming to Tampa. But he has expressed interest through relationships I had in Tampa, through different sources.

Would you have signed with the Bucs?

If it had gotten that far, I would seriously have considered it. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have explored it a little more. But that wasn't the case. Arizona expressed a lot more interest than what I was feeling Tampa was putting up and so this is where I'm at.

Any thoughts about new Florida coach Urban Meyer?

I don't know much about Urban at all, outside of that he has proven he can win on different levels. He's done that over the last five or six years and has done it on a consistent basis. I think he's going to do the University of Florida a great job.

Who's out there who can really make a run at your record?

I think there's a lot of guys out there. (Chargers running back) LaDainian Tomlinson is one guy that stands out in my mind. (The Jets') Curtis Martin is the guy definitely on my heels. There's a lot of great backs that are still playing right now that are young right now and have a tremendous opportunity to get there.

Ever think back to all those who doubted you when you first came into the league?

You know what, I don't even think about it. I've done what I have done through out my whole career, whether it's in the NFL, college or at the high school level, and once you have some success at some level there's no guarantee that you'll have it at the next level but you are a confident individual that you can go out and perform even at a greater level. I understand who I am, who I belong to, what kind of talent God has blessed me with and I try to maximize that moment.

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